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June 6, 2007

The latter half of a pale horse
Posted by Teresa at 07:16 AM * 417 comments

Wonkette says the Giuliani campaign has sort of apologized for widely e-mailing a Salt Lake Tribune story about how nutbar Mormon fringe types have dug up and been circulating an old Mormon legend, which tells how Joseph Smith prophesied that in the Last Days the Constitution “will be hanging by a thread,” and a Mormon or Mormons will save it. The nutbars have been speculating that this refers to Mitt Romney.

If I had to make a guess as to why Giuliani’s campaign repented of this, it would be that one of them finally gave the Salt Lake Trib article a close reading, and discovered it was debunking the story.

I don’t much care about Mitt Romney. What interests me is that everyone’s referring to the legend in question as the “White Horse prophecy.” There are a number of spurious prophecies circulating in Mormon folklore, and the one about the Constitution’s probably the oldest of the lot. I heard it myself as a kid. But when did that horse get into the story? It was never there before.

Comments on The latter half of a pale horse:
#1 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2007, 08:55 AM:

The story clearly came from a high White Horse souse.*

* I steal from the best.

#2 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2007, 10:08 AM:

I would guess because a White Horse Prophecy is better than a Dark Horse Candidacy. And I guess it gets traction because many conservative christians believe we are in other days of prophecy.

#3 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2007, 10:14 AM:

As I told Bill, I am so gonna bust the "hanging by a thread" part out at the next family reunion and somebody starts talking about Bush. After all, if the Consitution is hanging by a thread, there's a damn good reason. It certainly behooves all my Mormon relatives to remember THEY voted for the guy who has been taking an axe to ye olde threads.

#4 ::: MR. Bill ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2007, 10:17 AM:

If anyone reads Jon Krakauer's "Under the Banner of Heaven", they would probably be unable to vote for Romney...
And I want someone to ask, "in the spirit of Bill Clinton's 'Boxers or Briefs' question, Do you wear 'Sacred Long Underwear', Mr. Romney?"

#5 ::: David Moles ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2007, 10:30 AM:

Never mind the sacred underwear; I want to know if Romney supports expanding adding the punishments for betrayers of the secrets of the endowment ceremony to the CIA's list of approved interrogation techniques.

#6 ::: David Moles ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2007, 10:31 AM:

(Because, I should add, it's clear Giuliani would, if he only knew what they were.)

#7 ::: Mr. Bill ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2007, 10:33 AM:

And perhaps the 'white horse' alludes to the Revelations, 6:8 "And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth."- KJV

#8 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2007, 10:33 AM:

"But when did that horse get into the story?"

Perhaps from the idea of the hero riding into town at the last minute and saving the day? The Lone Ranger being one such hero, who is well known and rides a white horse?

#9 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2007, 10:47 AM:

Teresa, for what it's worth, there is apparently a version of the legend recorded in the unpublished diary of one John J. Roberts, of Paradise, Utah (1850), which talks about "the White Horse of Peace and Safety." I found an article on the subject here: (Sorry, I'm no good at creating links.) The reference is on page 3, about halfway down the second column; on a quick scan, the article's author doesn't seem to accept either the prophecy or this particular version of it as particularly authoritative.

#10 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2007, 11:20 AM:

Metaphorical white horse? Why bother? I think it would be far more interesting if Mitt Romney went with it--made his entrance to meetings and press conferences on a white horse. If you don't have much chance of winning anyway, might as well make a statement.

#11 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2007, 11:20 AM:

Metaphorical white horse? Why bother? I think it would be far more interesting if Mitt Romney went with it--made his entrance to meetings and press conferences on a white horse. If you don't have much chance of winning anyway, might as well make a statement.

#12 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2007, 11:35 AM:

"Pale horse" in Rev. vi is Death. "White horse" is the first horseman, traditionally interpreted as Pestilence, or as Conquest. (Or Pollution for all you Pratchett/Gaiman fans).

1. And I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals, and I heard, as it were the noise of thunder, one of the four beasts saying, Come and see.

2. And I saw, and behold a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer.

Another White Horse, ridden by the Messiah, turns up in Rev. xix:

11. And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war.

12. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his bead were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself.

13. And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God.

14. And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.

15. And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations; and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the wine-press of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.

16. And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.

#13 ::: Onion ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2007, 01:05 PM:


Wait, so Jesus has tats?

#14 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2007, 02:25 PM:

"I am that oft-defeated King
Whose failure fills the land,
Who fled before the Danes of old,
Who chaffered with the Danes with gold,
Who now upon the Wessex wold
Hardly has feet to stand.

"But out of the mouth of the Mother of God
I have seen the truth like fire,
This--that the sky grows darker yet
And the sea rises higher."

-G. K. Chesterton, The Ballad of the White Horse

#15 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2007, 02:30 PM:

The latter part of a pale horse... So that's where the rest of that horse went, in The Godfather.

#16 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2007, 02:33 PM:

Mr. Bill, #4: Do you wear 'Sacred Long Underwear', Mr. Romney?"

I never see why people get so fussed about this detail of Mormon faith. It's no stranger than growing long earlocks or covering your hair.

#17 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2007, 02:51 PM:

Well, to some of us, wearing prescribed undergarments (especially long drawers) seems a little Sikh.

#18 ::: PublicRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2007, 03:20 PM:

As an endowed wearer of the Magic Undies, I should inform you guys that you are missing out. Not only are they hella comfortable, they impart some pretty nifty powers to boot. Especially the military ones that come in Army ACU color. Moisture wicking! Outstanding!

Does anyone remember "The Greatest American Hero"? It's sort of like that, only without the slapstick and Robert Culp.

BTW, this "white horse" business is news to me. I guess I didn't catch that particular fireside when I was a lad.

The big one that I always heard was that the government was eventually going to force everyone to carry some kind of card (national ID card?) or get a chip implanted or have a barcode tatooed on themselves; and that this would be one of the hinge points at which the followers of Christ would have to rebel against a U.S. government clearly fallen into the hands of Old Scratch.

If this post seems a little tongue-in-cheek, it is.

Mary called it. Why do people obssess over my unmentionables? How is this any different from a yamulka or the many other kinds of religiously proscribed rament found around the world?

It isn't. Next subject, please.

#19 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2007, 03:33 PM:

#18: +1 Funny

"Why do people obsess over my unmentionables?"

I think it's the contrast between the LDS reputation for being nice, hardworking, and maybe a little square, and a little-known detail that's kind of old-world and Masonic-flavored.

I suspect that after the inevitable round of Daily Show type razzing resulting from Romney's run, the gag value will die of overexposure and the whole deal will be worth a shrug.

#20 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2007, 03:39 PM:

Seriously, Mary, I think part of it comes from the (as far as I know false) belief that Mormons never, ever take The Garments off. Makes it seem real freaky, and that's probably exactly what the people who made it up intended it to do.

#21 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2007, 03:52 PM:

PRV 18: This is one of those cases where you need to be very, very careful which word of a similar-sounding pair you use. 'Prescribed' means "required" in this context, but 'proscribed' means "forbidden." You don't want to be saying that you're forbidden to wear the magic underwear; that gives a mistaken picture of your status with respect to the church.

Actually, I'm having a hard time coming up with examples of proscriptions about raiment; the only one I can think of so far is that Orthodox Jews aren't supposed to wear blended fabrics ("garments of two stuffs").

#22 ::: PublicRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2007, 03:53 PM:

Sadly, there really are some beknighted LDS folk who truly do think you can't ever take your garments off; not even for sex. My wife had a girlfriend who was told this by her mother, the day before she got married in the temple.

Thankfully, my wife's friend quickly concluded that her mother was full of crap.

At my house, my wife and I generally treat the garment the way we treat a jacket. You put it on for protection outside the home. Inside the home (it can be our home, a friend's home, our parents' home, etc) the garment is optional. Be comfortable. Dress down. Or not at all, depending on the occasion. (e.g: foolin' around!)

I pity my brothers and sisters who suffer the notion that the garment must remain plastered to your skin 24/7. That's just not healthy IMHO.

#23 ::: PublicRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2007, 03:57 PM:

Xopher @ #21: Whoops! Sorry for the syntactical (grammatical?) faux pas.

#24 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2007, 03:58 PM:

re: obsession with the Gs* - I thought it was because any time you asked a question about the garments, you get the "sacred, not secret" response....and that includes when talking to your Mormon kids. Not necessarily so with the yarmulke or the earlocks. See, generally if you ask about the purpose of religious clothing, or symbols, people explain it has to do with some kind of religious contract, or that it reminds them of a theological tenet or something.

"Mommy, why does your underwear and Daddy's have the funny marks on it?"
"You'll find out when you're older."

It doesn't precisely alleviate the curiosity. If anything, it inflames it more. When you find out your mother has specific ways of getting rid of her underwear, as well as requesting that you not handle it in the laundry, and she won't tell you why, then well, I'd say it's setting you up for some pretty hardcore curiosity. The most I ever got was "It's a symbol of our covenent with the Lord." And the next logical question from the mouth of a curious kid is going to be, "Why?" or "What does that mean?"

*Gs = Garments. Also called Garmies until your elderly great-aunt overhears you and tells you to stop blaspheming.

#25 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2007, 04:02 PM:

Xoph: Prescriptions about rainment - it's not exactly codified, and obviously standards have changed over time, but Mormons are generally advised against wearing clothing that reveals their garments. (Those that have garments. The rest of us were told its a good idea to pretend that we already have them, so we could practise being temple-worthy.)

This is why adult Mormons run around in knee-length shorts, and most won't wear tank tops even during the hottest summer days. You're allowed to not wear them for purposes of gym, swimming, various sports, and as noted by PRV, there is a special set that is issued to those serving in the military...I've heard they have ones specially coloured for wearing under camo, so that if your shirt slips, you won't have blinding white versions that get you killed.

#26 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2007, 04:04 PM:

Er. Damn. Proscriptions, not prescriptions. Right after you explained it too. I promise I know the difference.

#27 ::: PublicRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2007, 04:11 PM:


It's been interesting, growing up LDS and observing how strictly different families handle the whole "sacred but not secret" rule. My parents never had any issues about my sister or I seeing the garment, touching it in or out of the laundry, etc. When we asked about the marks, we were told we'd find out in the temple some day; That they were part of what made the garment different from regular underwear of the same design or of similar cloth.

Some families were more rigorous than ours. Far more. Others, less so.

I try to be pretty up front with non-LDS folks, without getting into the minutae of the Endowment itself. Being in the military and having military garments, you tend to get asked about it a lot.

The new beige garments the church makes for us Army guys are cool in that the marks are now woven(?) or dyed(?) into the fabric in a way which doesn't make them nearly so obvious as those which are stitched. Unless someone knew better, when I am on-base and changing for PT in the latrine, my garments look like just another Army-issue t-shirt with matching boxer-briefs.

Oh, and my Dad always called them Garmies. LOL! Blasphemy? We LDS families can be so funny sometimes, with all the internal standards we set for ourselves and our children, thinking we're doing God's Will.

#28 ::: PublicRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2007, 04:17 PM:

Regarding military Garmies,

Are there any LDS folk here who can tell us if the church makes garments in OD for Marines, or black for the USAF? White does not seem to be a problem with the Navy, nor for any branch of service when in dress uniform.

I have two kinds now for Army use: the old "browny" version with the traditional stitching which used to get me all kinds of questions, and which can only be worn with the old-style foliage camo BDU; and the new high-tech "moisture wicking" sand-beige colored version with the hidden marking, for use with the new pixelated camo ACU.

#29 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2007, 04:19 PM:

It just seems that in the not-inconsiderable list of things that set Mormons apart from non-Mormons, the underwear is the one that gets the most attention (Which is possibly, now that I think about it, because we're a nation of puritans).

Meanwhile, the "no caffeine" thing seems to pass without comment, even though it's shocking.

#30 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2007, 04:28 PM:

Mary Dell: No caffeine isn't precisely codified either. It's an interpretation, and has been spouted by the General Authorities at the pulpit, but it's not actually in the Word of Wisdom section of the D&C. (The actual Word of Wisdom can be found here, and believe me, people ignore a lot of it. Like the bit about eating of meat sparingly, except in winter or times of famine. I broke that out when my family looked askance at my boyfriend's vegetarianism.) Hot drinks are verboten, so while coffee isn't mentioned by name, most Mormons don't drink it. (But I drank plenty of hot chocolate as a kid, so go figure.)

That's one of those things that people decide to abide by on a more individual basis. My family didn't drink coffee or coke, but my friend's family felt it was okay to drink coke.

#31 ::: PublicRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2007, 04:32 PM:

Mary @ #29,

At the risk of turning this thread into a free-for-all on Mormonality (maybe it's too late already?) the Caffeine Wars are one of the great in-jokes of LDS culture.

One the one side, you have those who believe absolutely that caffeine is proscribed (wink) by the LDS 'Word of Wisdom', by way of caffeine's connection to coffee, and because of more recent Church leadership admonishment that LDS members ought to avoid any ingested substance which can be habit-forming or addictive. This includes chocolate and pop and anything which has caffeine in it, including energy drinks and teas and "stay awake" pills.

On the other side you have all the rest of us who, while abiding by the letter of the Word, in that we don't drink coffee, don't have much of an issue about drinking caffeinated sodas. Or eating chocolate. My Mom has been a Diet Coke addict for almost 3 decades now. A friend likes to tell a story about how he was on his mission and got turned in by a fellow missionary for drinking a coke. The mission president dealt with the issue in a rather remarkable fashion IMHO. He finished the coke right in front of the plaintiff. Case closed.

Of course, the Caffeine Wars cannot be discussed without mentioning the epic Battle Of Hot Chocolate....

#32 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2007, 04:36 PM:

PRV: My dad yelled at my mother once for letting us drink a coke when we were all trapped in a horrible traffic jam in Phoenix and we had no other beverages. Some nice lady offered them to my mom, and my mom thought at the time that it was better than nothing.

I've had friends who know vaguely about the Word of Wisdom if I am okay to drink Nyquil

#33 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2007, 04:40 PM:

PRV 23: Lexical, if you wanna get technical. But who's counting?

Mary 29: I'm not allowed caffeine (or decongestants, or anything that can possibly help a sinus headache or migraine, dammit) for medical reasons, and yes, people think that's deeply weird. They think that's even weirder than the fact that I don't drink alcohol for similar reasons, or that I don't eat meat, which is the closest thing to a religious dietary proscription that I have.

I thought the Mormon proscription was against "hot drinks," which to Joseph Smith meant coffee and tea, but is interpreted by some to mean anything with caffeine, by others to mean anything hot, by others to mean BOTH (so that they won't drink Diet Coke OR Red Zinger, though iced RZ might be OK as long as the neighbors don't see, because you know what YOU'D think if you saw your neighbor drinking something dark red in a tall glass, by golly)?

#34 ::: PublicRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2007, 04:42 PM:

PF, you were way ahead of me on the caffeine thing.

If you don't mind my asking, how would you classify yourself, in church terms?

I'm a pretty lazy LDS guy, in that I don't like callings and use every excuse I can to get out of meetings on Sundays. I'd probably drop out entirely if I didn't feel like being LDS is written into my bones on some intrinsic level. In fact, I did try to drop out in my teens, only to have my (eventually to be) wife get me back into it.

One thing I will say: being and practicing the LDS faith outside Utah is a whole other animal compared to being and practicing inside Utah. In many ways I have come to prefer the former. As much as I loved and miss Salt Lake and the glories of the mid and lower Utah national parks, the Utah LDS culture is a bit too claustrophobic and hermetically-sealed for my sensibilities.

Oh, and KRCL-FM über alles!

#35 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2007, 04:43 PM:

...because you know what YOU'D think if you saw your neighbor drinking something dark red in a tall glass, by golly)?

Wildberry Kool-Aid, of course.

#36 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2007, 04:46 PM:

Arrrrggh! The dreaded cross-post!!!!

#37 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2007, 04:48 PM:

Being a gentile myself, I always thought the prohibition was of caffeine. (Not that the LDS members I know best pay any attention to it, either way.)

(Methodists are supposed to abstain from alcohol. Don't assume that they do.)

#38 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2007, 04:50 PM:

PRV: I am an official heretic, by my own request. I have the letter and everything. My family (parents, sibs, grandparents, most of my cousins) and many friends are still all Mo' and I'd like to stay on good terms with them, so I'm not as fire-breathing as I used to be. My sibs know, my parents don't officially know, although if they asked point blank, I would tell them. But I find the culture I grew up in anthropologically interesting, and I don't mind explaining my experiences within it to others. (So we don't hijack the entirety of Teresa's thread, if you have further questions, you can email me or go through my website.)

#39 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2007, 04:52 PM:

At the risk of derailing a fascinating conversation, a white horse is the symbol for my part of the world, Kent. It was the symbol of the Saxon* Kingdom of Kent, supposedly from the semi-legendary brothers and kings Hengist** and Horsa***.

I doubt this has any bearing on this prophecy, but I seem to remember a tale about Hengest that involves a prophecy... will try and find it.

* They were actually Jutes, but that's how local histories always refer to it.
** IANA Anglo-Saxon Scholar, but I'm told it means stallion.
*** IANAASS, but derived from horse, which certainly begs some questions about what their parents were thinking when they named them.

#40 ::: PublicRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2007, 04:59 PM:

PF @ #32: Dang, he yelled at her? Sounds like someone needed to take a chill pill. (wink)

My dad's side of the family tended to be more strict about WoW (Word of Wisdom) than my mother's. Dad was from a pretty devout LDS family in Salt Lake. Mom was from Moroni, UT, and while her family had roots in the faith going back to polygamy, her dad was quite the jack mormon. Grandpa drank coffee and alcohol and tea. Even showed up somewhat drunk at my uncle's reception after being married in the temple.

Perhaps because of this, my mother had a little fling with cold coffees in the 1990's. She claimed her bottled frappucinos were the only thing that helped get her out of bed in the morning, and aided her with arthritis pain. She did wine tasting when they went and toured the California vineyards, too.

I'm more like my Dad than my Mom. I drink Coca-Cola Classic, and that's about it for caffeinated beverages. I think coffee tastes bad, as does beer and most wine; though my wife sometimes has us use non-alcoholic wines over french or italian dishes.

I draw the line at recreational substances. Have never used them, and find them repellant on some deep level of my being that cannot be accounted for simply because of the church.

Which makes my wife's marijuana love something of a raw bone in our house. Mostly she's managed to stay clear since joining the church. But there have been a few "off wagon" adventures, one of which put me in therapy to deal with my angst and anger over the issue. Eventually I had to just let the whole thing go. It's her body and her life, and she's never exposed our daughter to any of it. I can't ever say I am 'fine' with her using pot, but it doesn't drive me into fits like it used to. I suppose I am just glad she doesn't have a taste for anything harder; and that she's mostly successful in her efforts to abide by her personal feelings and her want to heed church admonishment where rec drug use is concerned.

NyQuil... Now there is an interesting question. My family never thought twice about the alcohol in many cough medicines. I suppose it came down to intent? Nobody drinks booze to clear up a cough. Is alcohol for medicinal purposes breaking the spirit of the WoW?

Only the Lord knows, I guess.


And I agree with everyone who raises an eyebrow at the meat and sugar consumption statistics, where Utahns and LDS folk are concerned. We all tend to ignore and overlook the WoW too much in this aspect, in that we pound down the meat and the refined sugar to excess. I'm 100% guilty here, and always blush a little when I re-read the WoW.

#41 ::: PublicRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2007, 05:03 PM:

PF, I will visit your site.

Teresa, sorry for the hijack.

#42 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2007, 05:13 PM:

PRV 31: Nah, we're not going to have a free-for-all on things Mormonic. You can find plenty of threads in ML where the Mormons and ex-Mormons (or is it "former Mormons"?) giggle about the in-jokes while the rest of us do the textual equivalent of staring openmouthed in fascinated horror. Been there, done that.

Besides, every religion looks like a wacko nut-cult to a person sufficiently outside its sphere. I've been at some difficulty explaining that we don't really worship stone idols as such, since the carving of a stone into an idol doesn't make it more sacred, just more obviously sacred, but the people I've explained this to don't seem to think it makes a whole lot of difference. I've never understood why.

And my personal favorite story is of a little Pagan boy, brought into a Roman Catholic church for the first time at the age of four; he burst into hysterical tears at the sight of the crucifix at the front. His mother at first thought it was because a crucifix is a damned scary-looking piece of art if you've never seen one, but as she calmed him down she discovered that he thought that's what they did there.

In reality, of course, Roman Catholics are fundamentally opposed to crucifixion, in general. As are most Christians, except those kids we heard about in a previous thread who seem to think that symbolically crucifying their non-(or insufficiently-)Christian friends is a way of showing love for them.

Now see, I think that crosses the line. Your right to swing your religious fist ends where my spiritual chin begins. Doing bad magic against other people is just plain wrong even, or maybe especially, "for their own good."

Long as it's within those bounds, though, I'm pretty tolerant. Don't call Ganesh-ji a "vain idol," and I won't call Joseph Smith...what I think of him.

#43 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2007, 05:25 PM:

Xopher @ #33:
I'm not allowed caffeine (or decongestants, or anything that can possibly help a sinus headache or migraine, dammit) for medical reasons, and yes, people think that's deeply weird. They think that's even weirder than the fact that I don't drink alcohol for similar reasons, or that I don't eat meat, which is the closest thing to a religious dietary proscription that I have.

I simply do not drink caffeine in the form of coffee, tea, or soda, though I do have the occasional hot chocolate in the winter. I also do not drink alcohol except when under severe stress (in 2005 when my cat died) or an occasional sip at a wedding when no alternative for toasting is provided. People find this even more deeply weird than if I were doing it for religious reasons. I do eat meat.

#44 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2007, 05:27 PM:

PRV #40, nobody drinks booze to clear up a cough?

When I was in high school, I had a lingering unproductive cough after a cold that was seriously interfering with daily life. OTC cough meds weren't helping. In frustration, my parents offered me a cordial glass of Kahlua.

It worked a treat at suppressing the cough. Probably because of alcohol being a CNS depressant.

They wound up taking me to the doctor for a prescription for codeine cough syrup, because there was no way I could take Kahlua to school, even for medicinal purposes.

The doctor agreed that Kahlua was actually a pretty reasonable remedy for the sort of cough I had. And much tastier.

#45 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2007, 05:28 PM:

Xoph: Good to know. I myself feel a little weird when I get going on a good discussion of what it's like to grow up Mormon, because for a period of a few years, it was kind of a bee in the bonnet, and I didn't realise I was maybe boring everybody in earshot. (Hopefully that hasn't been the case here.)

BTW, I am very fond of Ganesha...I assume Ganesh-ji is a variant spelling.

#46 ::: Jennyanydots ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2007, 05:36 PM:

Xopher, your story about the little boy in the church reminds me of something I read about one of the first Jesuit priests to arrive in China in the seventeenth century. His baggage was searched by Chinese customs officials, who found a small crucifix in it. The priest narrowly escaped being executed as a black magician, because what other conclusion do you draw about a person who carries about with him a tiny tortured fetish stuck through with nails? I can't remember how he talked his way out of the situation.

The anecdote was in The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci by Jonathan D. Spence, a really good book.

#47 ::: Mikael Johansson ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2007, 05:37 PM:

Xopher@42: I agree with your basic call for keeping the fists off other people's chins.

However, and this is, I must say, something I've almost only experienced with Mormons - I tend to drop the caution in one particular situation.

If you stop me on the street, while I'm headed somewhere, and start telling me about This Fantastic Faith I could buy into, then I'm going to enthusiastically talk to you and explain all the ways in which I think you're plain wrong.

If you, after hearing me tell you that I find the mere concept of a god to be completely without impact on my own life, and am very happy indeed as an atheist, still invite me to your church to get a copy of your book and get to talk about the things it says, I'm going to come as invited, and then actually argue the points you make. And at this point, I'll be wearing my thin gloves. So if you start talking about how Joseph Smith wrote his book, I'm actually going to challenge the possibly verifiable statements you make.

If you tell me that praying gives you a hot, pleasant, almost feverish feeling, I'm going to be hard put not to make a pretty offensive pun out of it.

And if you tell me that without a vengeful God watching your every step, all of mankind will break down into a chaotic society where property means nothing and the streets will have more orgies than traffic, I'm going to conclude that you have a particularly icky view of humanity, and distance myself from these ideas quite explicitly.

And, being a mathematician, I do not believe that "A truth as true as that 2+2=4" goes very far. Consider Z/3Z for instance.

All the above based on actual encounters.

#48 ::: PublicRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2007, 05:54 PM:

MJ @ #47,

Proselytizing is one of the areas of LDS life with which I am not comfortable at all. I'd actually prefer it if the church was not so aggressive in recruiting new members. Maybe as a small church trying to escape "cult" status, it has to be aggressive? But the "used car salesmen" aspect of LDS missioneering has not earned its reputation on accident. And it's this reputation which, I think, has in fact hurt recruitment to a certain extent. Nobody likes to be hard-sold. Hell, very few people like to be "sold" anything at all. Our culture (in America anyway) has become very much a, "Don't bother me right now, I will seek it/you out when I need it/you!" kind of culture.

I think the church ignores this reality to its detriment; and thus people continue to be turned off.

Just my opinion.

#49 ::: Clark E. Myers ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2007, 05:54 PM:

#5 - IIRC revised about 1990 so you'd want the old fashioned version - and Latin Mass no doubt.

#20 - As you surely know Bob for the last word around here on "the holy underwear of the Lord" see:
God and I included in a NESFA press collection and on the web from a teacher of writers on the board.

Though I'd be as reluctant to take the Salt Lake Trib as the last word on this as I would be to take Wikipedia still the article mentioned must be balanced and correct for it agrees with my own understanding - for the curious I could point to folks who believe something along the lines suggested was said but not infallibly and not exactly and who are hoping for and soon. On the other hand it wasn't until I went looking that I came across the white horse reference - I wonder if it isn't a back formation from "a man on a white horse" and never intended to be literal in that respect.

#50 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2007, 05:54 PM:

PF 45: Ganesha is His Sanskrit name. Hindi has dropped the final -a in those kinds of places (though it's still sung, just not spoken), so his name comes out Ganesh. -ji is an honorific, meaning something like "beloved." A Hindu coworker came to my desk one time, and saw the tiny and very stylized image of Ganesha atop my monitor. "Is that Ganesh-ji?" she asked.

Jennyanydots 46: A delightful example.

Mikael 47: See, I think by importuning you in the street, they're "leading with their chins," to follow my metaphor. In other words, I think if someone is trying to convert you, you have a perfect right to self-defense, short of escalation. Anyone who declares their own religion better than yours for you has thrown open the door for any kind of criticism of their religion you care to level at it. The skinny little Mormon "Elders" steer clear of me, probably because I smile at them, but they'd get an earful if they started up with me.

A friendly, civil earful. I'm a pretty nice person, despite looking like Nosferatu. But I doubt if my comparison of Joseph Smith to Gerald Gardner (the founder of (one substream of) my religion, thank you very much) would go over well, no matter how carefully I phrased it.

Um...doesn't Z/3Z == 1/3 for all Z? I don't get that part.

#51 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2007, 06:02 PM:

MJ @ 47: The proselyting is fairly hard-wired into the Mormon culture as well. When I was little, we were told, "Every member a missionary." And of course, all the boys are pretty much told that they must go on a mission at 19. (A mission which they themselves finance for the most part, although I understand the LDS church has gotten better at subsidizing them. My brother paid for his mission by selling hoar-frost cloaks on his old Asheron's Call account, btw.)

I once had a not-so-fun taste of the proselyting fervor gone amiss myself. Our Primary teacher decided we were going to be "every member a missionary" and gave us Book of Mormons which we were supposed to put our name and testimony in, and then give to a non-Mormon friend. She was so gung-ho on this idea, that she was also ignoring the fact that we were ten year olds in the most Mormon county on Earth, and if we knew any non-Mormons at all, it was bound to be the exact same person in all cases. In any case, I couldn't find anybody to give my Book of Mormon to...and it weighed heavily on my conscience for several years. Or at least until somewhere in my mid-teens, when normal teenage attributes asserted themselves and I said, "Hey, this is stupid, feeling guilty about this."

#52 ::: Mikael Johansson ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2007, 06:09 PM:

PRV@48: Those I get aren't that much used car salesman as completely incapable of adjusting their language to the person they're talking to. They expect me to pray and be told that what they say is true, and I'm having issues with the concept of prayer as such, et.c. I'm constantly fascinated that they expect the pitch they deliver to convert anyone who doesn't already believe.

Xopher@50: I must admit though that I'm pretty happy sparring with them once their chins are lifted.

By Z, I meant the ring of integers. It turns out that many important examples of rings - i.e. "Methods to calculate with +, - and *, though not necessarily /" - are on a form inspired by the clock: if you add 3 hours to 22, you don't get 25, you get 1. Similar, the entity known to mathematicians as Z/3Z works. You wrap around so that 0 = 3, and thus, obviously, 2+2=4=(wraparound)=1.

So, in the ring Z/3Z, we have 2+2=1. Which, accidentally is also equal to 4, but depending on how you build the ring, 4 doesn't necessarily make any sense whatsoever.

#53 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2007, 06:19 PM:

Oh. I was taught that as "modulo 3." It was the notation Z/3Z that I was unfamiliar with.

Yes, I'm familiar with the phenomenon of nonsensical answers to questions I haven't asked, and of being asked questions that make no more sense than "what's 91 degrees north latitude?" (Like "what happened before the Big Bang," but that's another kettle of eyeless deep-sea fish.)

#54 ::: Mikael Johansson ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2007, 06:25 PM:

but that's another kettle of eyeless deep-sea fish -- mmmm, sounds tasty!

The notation Z/3Z is used to introduce a way to talk about these things that makes more sense for weirder areas. Thus, the solution set to a system of polynomial equations form a geometric object - similar to the way solution sets to linear systems form hyperplanes, these form curves and surfaces and things like that.

These objects can be studied by studying the set of all sufficiently nice functions from them to, say, the real or complex numbers, and these functions can be added, subtracted and multiplied.

So, you end up with something that's written like
R[x,y,z]/(equation system), and read more or less like "The polynomial ring in x,y,z modulo the equation system".

But in order for this to be .. sane, you don't want the "something modulo something else" to follow you all the way through - you want to think about it and be able to forget the modulo, making it an intrinsic property of these "numbers" instead of something you paste on top of them.

#55 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2007, 06:29 PM:

Mikael, that whooshing sound you just heard was all that going way over my head. I'll read it again in a few hours and see if it makes more sense. I think I see what you're driving at in a general kind of way, but the hologram is pretty blurry so far.

#56 ::: PublicRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2007, 06:30 PM:

MJ @ #52,

Sometimes I think this is the biggest reason why sending young men into the world to preach the gospel, backfires. They're barely out of their parents' households, and some of them have a shakey hold on their own faith; or at least their understanding of it, and their ability to explain it to others. They go to MTC (missionary training center; boot camp for missionaries) and learn the lessons and the lines, but I am not sure how much time they spend preparing to handle intricate, probing, or even combative questioning.

During my limited time doing splits (splits: common ward members going out with full-time missionaries, sometimes "splitting" the typical two-person missionary pairings and thereby doubling the amount of ground that can be covered during door-knocking) I sometimes frustrate the young guys I am with because I won't stay "on message". If a person doesn't seem ready to dive right into discussions about Jesus and Joseph Smith and whatnot, I tend to take a more conversational approach, and don't really care about hammering on Lesson 1 or whatever it is they want the kids to do.

Ultimately, my personal philosophy is that the Silent Sell is the only "sell" that's worth anything. As LDS people we speak far more loudly with our actions, than our words. If we claim to be emissaries of the Christ, how Christian are our actions to our fellows; especially those outside the faith? Do we truly abide by our own strictures, or are we just "Sunday Mormons" who skip the rules during the rest of the week? If we ask others to respect our 'minority' faith and respect our 'unusual' customs and beliefs, are we not bound to do the same for them?

IMHO hypocrisy is the greatest enemy of the LDS church, and perfection of the saints the church's greatest overriding mission; beyond recruitment. If the church stopped all active proselytizing and turned inward and simply shaped up the existing membership and got people off their high horses and got them to walking more of their talk, how much more would this aid the quest to attract new members?

Food for thought.

#57 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2007, 07:07 PM:

Neil Willcox #39: The modern German word for 'stallion' is 'hengst'.

(I am reminded of Sellars and Yeatman's 'and his wife (or horse) Horsa'.)

#58 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2007, 07:15 PM:

Mikael Johansson #47: The last time I encountered a Mormon missionary I left her in tears. She simply couldn't answer any of my questions about the racist history of the LDS church, or explain to me why I was under a curse for the first twenty-two years of my life, or why the church condemned both my marriage and my parents' marriage.

#59 ::: Cynthia Wood ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2007, 07:27 PM:

PRV #48 & 56 - I deal with the call for proselytizing in my own church (not LDS), by faithfully attempting to spread the faith to anyone who comes to my door trying to convert me.

So far the score is Cindy:3 Door-knockers:0, and the JW's haven't knocked on my door in more than 8 years. I've seen them cross the street to avoid our house. LDS missionaries are more fun, since they apparently don't pass on warnings about the welcome they'll receive. My favorite single moment was when, after about two hours of intense discussion, the older of the two missionaries all but bodily dragged the younger out of the house as he protested. ("But, wait! That sounded interesting!")

#60 ::: miriam beetle ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2007, 07:30 PM:


She simply couldn't answer any of my questions about the racist history of the LDS church, or explain to me why I was under a curse for the first twenty-two years of my life, or why the church condemned both my marriage and my parents' marriage.

yup. my common-law mum-in-law has some funny stories about growing up japanese buddhist in mormon alberta.

#61 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2007, 07:42 PM:


The point PRV intended to convey, I think, is that Truth is a more slippery concept to mathematicians than laypeople often imagine. They see a statement like "2+2=4" and suddenly all kinds of open questions pop into their minds that don't occur to normal people. What do all those symbols really mean? By deploying the quotient notation, PRV pointed out that the statement "2+2=4" is nonsensical without also specifying a particular algebra, hence not as "true" as it might seem at first glance. Most normal people assume the statement is about conventional integer arithmetic, and mathematicians are trained not to do that.

p.s. now, for a real fun time, cue the discussion about Gödel's incompleteness theorem.

#62 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2007, 08:36 PM:

It was Mikael.

And yeah, like why should I believe in mathematics, when the greatest mathematicians agree that it's not complete? (Or contradictory, which is even worse.) Am I supposed to believe in "Math of the Gaps"?

The next pair of Math Missionaries to come knocking on my door is gonna get an earful, let me tell you!

#63 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2007, 09:02 PM:

I gave Math a try, but it never really spoke to me...

#64 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2007, 09:16 PM:

The next pair of Math Missionaries to come knocking on my door is gonna get an earful, let me tell you!

"Excuse me, sir... but have you heard the good news about the Church-Turing thesis? If you just repent of your superstitions, embrace the strong Church-Turing conjecture, and place your true faith in the theoretical power of universal Turing machines, then your mind might be saved from experiencing the eternal void when the Singularity comes! Please give a small donation to help fund the work of discovering mathematical proofs to that effect."

#65 ::: S. Dawson ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2007, 09:53 PM:

Rikibeth @ 44, I suspect the chocolate in the Kahlua may have helped as much as the alcohol--some recent research seems to show that chocolate works as a cough suppressant. I've never tried it myself, though.

By the by, this is the first time I've posted here since the adoption of the spelling reference, and I think it's delightful.

#66 ::: S. Dawson ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2007, 09:58 PM:

Except that it turns out the flavoring in Kahlua is coffee, not chocolate. So much for my theory.

#67 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2007, 09:59 PM:

S. Dawson @65, Kahlua's coffee flavored, not chocolate!

Interesting, though. When the Kahlua worked, I did sample several of the other liqueurs my parents had, and one was Vandermint, a chocolate mint one in a blue Delft bottle. It ALSO worked.

And was yummy.

#68 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2007, 10:00 PM:

My mother came from a group called the Free Methodists -- they left the Methodists because they were too worldly -- which has become more average these days. But they didn't believe in stimulants, so no caffeine or theobromine, etc.

#69 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2007, 11:17 PM:

Mikael Johansson @54: All that math talk makes me want to eat your brains (but not in a zombie way; think 'Skylar' from 'Heroes').

I've always felt that math education could do better by telling better stories. We got a couple of vague and unconnected stories thrown in (there was this guy, his name was Pythagoras...), but it could have done with more of that. What were the problems people were struggling with, that these particular techniques developed as solutions to? More context would not only have been more fun, but made the whole more memorable.

I guess I'm remembering high school math; I went to an art college...

I do recall some artist friends who claimed that geometry was the only math they got, because you could draw diagrams to figure it out (although I understand drawing diagrams was denounced in some circles).

What is the favorite math of musicians?

On the Mormon thread, a Mormon SF writer compared his appreciation of SF fandom to his Mormon upbringing; both vital and interesting sub-cultures.

I appreciate the views into the culture.

I would like a world where it was well understood that religion = story, and we could appreciate the story told well for its own sake. What you should do when they're encouraging you to sell the farm and journey to Jerusalem? (you should probably keep the farm).

#70 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2007, 11:18 PM:

jh woodyatt @ 64


(and once a year we get into completeness and the Halting Problem?)

#71 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2007, 11:19 PM:

j h woodyatt @ 2^6

Ah, but I belong to the Reformed Church of Turing. We believe the Church-Turing Conjecture to be false, thus invalidating Turing's analysis of the Halting Problem, and meaning that not only is P = NP, but that P = Quantum NP. This means that all algorithms are computable in a single step, given the right hardware, which is God.

#72 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2007, 11:45 PM:

Ah, but I belong to the Reformed Church of Turing...

Blasphemer! HERETIC! There is no machine but the universal Turing machine, and Stephen Wolfram is its new prophet!

#73 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2007, 12:28 AM:

my only intolerance of Mormon Missionaries were the pair that Would NOT stop ringing the bell when I still worked at home. They rang that bell in the peevish sort of way a small child rings the doorbell.

I was on deadline. I normally would not have even answered the phone at the time (I had a period of about five year where got to work at home, I was Very Spoiled). They would not stop ringing the fsking doorbell. I had seen them coming too, JWs don't wear black pants and white shirts, they usually wear suits if male or church dresses if female. My experience with JWs is that they don't usually keep ringing the bell if no one answers.

I stomped downstairs cell phone in hand. All transactions were through my front door's window.

"Get the hell off my porch!"

"But Ma'am, don't you want to hear the word of Salvation?" (or some other such statement, on that I'm not clear)

"Get the hell off my porch. I'm working, I'm on deadline, and you've interrupted me. Get off my fscking porch!"

"But ma'am....?"

"I am dialing 911. If I get to the final 1 and you're on my porch, when the police come I'm going to press charges for trespass." I press "9" and the number

"But ma'am...?"

"How stupid are you, get off my fscking porch now!" I press "1" and say the number.

They bolted. I went back upstairs and met my deadlne. It STILL Makes me hot to remember it.

Thus ends my last experience with Mormon Missionaries, they appear to have marked my street address as a Place To Avoid. But since I work out at the office now, I may not know about it (JWs tend to leave a Watchtower in our front door screen, Mormon's don't leave anything).

#74 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2007, 12:44 AM:

Paula @ 73

Sounds like they were inexperienced Mormonaries. Most of them are more polite (and smarter) than that, in my experience.

(I had a friend who would tell JWs he was a Druid.)

#75 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2007, 01:06 AM:

The only missionaries that knocked on my door politely left after I politely said I wasn't interested. I wished them good luck on the mission as they left. No hard feelings.

#76 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2007, 05:45 AM:

Missionary: Excuse me, sir, have you heard of the Church of the Latter-Day Saints?

a younger ajay: Er...yes. Aren't you the guys from "A Study in Scarlet"?

(Exeunt missionaries).

#77 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2007, 06:11 AM:

Fragano @57 - So much for my GCSE German*.

I've seen Hengist and Horsa translated as Stallion and Mare, and also Gelding and Mare, which is a slightly strange image for a pair of warrior kings. Assuming they weren't King and Queen, or Horsa got retconned in later as a sidekick, or that they weren't made up to add focus to the stories of the Jutes arrival in Kent, in which case it makes some sense.

* Although I can still ask the way to the train station, if only because I had the nickname bahnhof for a while.

#78 ::: MR. ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2007, 06:28 AM:

Mr. Bill, #4: Do you wear 'Sacred Long Underwear', Mr. Romney?"

I never see why people get so fussed about this detail of Mormon faith. It's no stranger than growing long earlocks or covering your hair.

My interest is simply an attempt to keep Mr. Romney from becoming president, and in calling attention to this bit of Mormon life, think the Fundies who are the Republican base (and my neighbors) will be less likely to vote for him. Cynical, and I'm not against Mormons generally, but there it is.

#79 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2007, 06:28 AM:

Rob @69:

I've always felt that math education could do better by telling better stories.

Our reading today is from the Book of Physical Measurement, Chapter 2

2:1 And he spake in parables to them, saying, there once was a king named Hi-ER-on. 2:2 And this king had commissioned a crown, made of gold, in the shape of a laurel wreath. 2:3 But Hieron suspected that the crown had been adulterated with silver, and commissioned Ar-chi-ME-des to determine its true nature. 2:4 Hieron forbade Archimedes from destroying the crown in his investigations, for it was beautifully wrought.

2:5 Archimedes knew well that gold and silver have divers densities, that is that a cubit of gold weighith more than a cubit of silver, yea, nearly twice as much. 2:6 Yet though he could weigh the crown, he could not easily determine its volume, for it was irregularly shaped. 2:7 He pondered the problem for many days.

2:7 Now, while pondering, he ventured not unto the public baths at Syracuse, but remained at home. 2:8 And upon realising that this had made him wondrous smelly, he decided to pause in his thoughts and take a bath. 2:9 Therefore did he draw a bath in his tub, and remove his raiment.

2:10 Then did Archimedes step into his bath, and as he did so, a quantity of water spilled out. 2:11 As he came to sit in the tub, more water overflowed. 2:12 Then though he, more water spilleth out when I lower more of my body into the tub. 2:13 The tub holdeth only so much volume, and if my body is to occupy some of the tub, then therfore the water cannot. 2:14 And the volume of water is the same as the volume of body that displaceth it. 2:15 Then did he run through the streets of Syracuse shouting, "Eureka", which meaneth, "I found it." 2:16 And he did this naked, which alarmed the horses.

2:17 And the students said, Teacher, why speak you this parable to us? 2:18 And one student, who was a confirmed smart-alec, said, Teacher, is it that we shall do our best thinking in the shower? 2:19 And the Teacher threw a chalkboard eraser at the smart-alec.

Here endith our reading.

#80 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2007, 08:23 AM:

abi... And he did this naked, which alarmed the horses.

Was one of those horses the one referred to in this thread's title?

#81 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2007, 08:59 AM:

Miriam Beetle #60: Now there's got to be an interesting story behind that!

#82 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2007, 09:03 AM:

Paula #73: What I've always wanted to do is ask them why, if the tablets of gold were given to Joe Smith by an angel named Moroni, they don't call themselves 'Morons'.

#83 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2007, 09:07 AM:

Neil Willcox #77: Of course, it is entirely possible that they were either culture heroes (in which case they might not have had a real existence), or clan chiefs of the horse clan, or priests of a horse cult. I've no idea.

#84 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2007, 09:19 AM:

Abi #79: Or one could take an approach in Scots.

#85 ::: Nathan Russell ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2007, 09:22 AM:

#74: It's rather apocryphally, but I heard at a gaming con about someone who said he'd politely listen to the LDS missionaries if he could then tell them about his religion. About 10 minutes in, he interrupted, saying it was his turn, and began reading from the Simon Necronomicon. Supposedly they never came back.

#86 ::: Jennifer Barber ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2007, 10:18 AM:

47: However, and this is, I must say, something I've almost only experienced with Mormons - I tend to drop the caution in one particular situation.

If you stop me on the street, while I'm headed somewhere, and start telling me about This Fantastic Faith I could buy into

Presumably this is region-dependent--I only get it from Southern Baptists. Even the Jehovah's Witnesses around here will leave you alone if you brush past the copy of Watchtower they thrust at you; I've never had one, either on the street or the one I know personally, attempt to talk me into religion.

Southern Baptists, OTOH....

#87 ::: Chris ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2007, 11:04 AM:

I had a very simple strategy for getting rid of LDS missionaries. Almost the first thing they asked was if I had heard of their church; I said yes, but I had never actually read the book, and did they have a copy I could borrow? So of course they gave me one.

Then I started looking back and forth between them and the book, as if to imply that I would start reading it, except it's rude to read in front of guests. They took the hint and left. I still have the book around somewhere, I think, but never bothered to open it.

They went away happy, because they thought I was going to read it; I was happy because they went away without anyone getting angry. And the chance of me being converted by reading the book isn't really that different than the chance of me being converted by not reading it (IMO), so no harm done from the sort-of-misleading.

#88 ::: Canard ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2007, 11:20 AM:

j h woodyatt #72: I'm reading ML on Stephen Wolfram's time! Have you been sent to drag me back on task?

#89 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2007, 11:43 AM:

"I'm reading ML on Stephen Wolfram's time! Have you been sent to drag me back on task?"

The Machine displays complicated behavior that can only be comprehended by running it and seeing what it does.

#90 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2007, 11:54 AM:

This Wolfram-Turing thread reminds me it's time to do Laundry.

#91 ::: Noelle ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2007, 01:03 PM:

All this talk of Mormons and recruiting remind me that as a teenager in Southern Alberta who was not Mormon, I seriously envied them the dances they seemd to have all the time. But I could never figure out why all the older boys seemed to named Elder.

#92 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2007, 02:21 PM:

"This Wolfram-Turing thread reminds me it's time to do Laundry."

I suppose I should get around to reading one of Mr. Stross's books too... I'm told they really are quite good. Alas. Busy busy busy.

#93 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2007, 04:10 PM:

Noelle (#91) -

If you'd ever gone to one of the dances, you would have ceased envying them - when I was a Youth (in the 80's) the guys were smug in their superiority, knowing that the gals were being taught we couldn't get into heaven without one.

The one guy who was actually respectful and had a sense of humor (there was always exactly one per ward) was almost never available to all but the Molly-est of Mormons.

PRV, I love reading your input on this thread; much like PiscusFish, I am a voluntary non-mormon with a few beloved family members still of that faith. My mom's observation the other day about being Mormon in Utah, vs everywhere else is pretty much exactly as you describe. (also, re: your wife's weed usage - doesn't the WoW state that everything god put on the earth is good for mankind, so long as it isn't abused? I'm paraphrasing, and I'm sure it wouldn't fly during a temple interview, but providing she's not doing it to excess or in front of your kids, she's probably not much worse off than serial Jello abusers.)

#94 ::: PublicRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2007, 04:47 PM:

cellist @ #93,

Thanks! It's been fun talking about this whole thing.

Regarding dope, the last time my wife had a major use period (e.g: actually brought some into the house) she was going through a MAJOR bout of anxiety-slash-depression. So in that sense, I think the pot was probably medicinal.

It was during this time I had to get some therapy for my own anxiety; it was driving me crazy knowing she was smoking/toking most nights after I put myself and my daughter to bed. I was seriously pissed-slash-appalled. But what could I do? She wasn't harming herself or the baby, was never stoned in the presence of her family or outside the home; in every way she was the "responsible" user. I had to try and find a way to let it go.

That was two years ago, though. She's in a far different place, mentally and emotionally, so it's not an issue anymore. I think she said the last time she smoked was last year at a party her university girlfriends were throwing. Since then she's been trying to not partake, simply because she feels it's important that she set an example for our daughter, who is four years old come October.

My personal take is that most "illicit" drugs, and just about all legal drugs/intoxicants, do have value. Pot especially seems to be a proven boon for chemotherapy and cancer patients who need something to help them through the horror of the side effects caused by the chemo. Why we have not, nationally, legalized marijuana for this use, is beyond me.

But then this is a subject for a whole other thread.

Your church dance story was sad and amusing. Most of the young men in my ward when I was a Deacon and then a Teacher were total dickheads. Like, bad. Sunday Mormons, all of them, and they were rude and had no manners, and most of the young women thought they were trolls. Because they were.

Being one of the few "nerds" in that motley bunch, I actually got a lot of action from the young women, aged 14 through 16, simply because I could carry on a conversation and was polite and respectful and could make them laugh sometimes.

(NOTE: 'action' being defined in LDS terms as interaction, just so the non-LDS understand...)

As for gals not being able to get into heaven without a guy, I've never heard that. If the idea was being circulated in your ward/family, I'd sure wonder who came up with it? Probably more Mormon folklore, like the "white horse" thing that sparked this thread.

IMHO it's probably the other way around. Speaking only as a former Mormon Young Man, we were (are?) an unfinished and rough bunch, much in need of training and refinement and a good swift kick in the ass. I'm always telling my wife that the reason I think LDS men need women especially is so that you can grow us up and give us some polishing and make us presentable.

Because without you, Lord, it 'aint pretty sometimes.


One note on that: I am grateful that my wife is a convert and was not born and raised LDS. Not only did she not have the usual LDS woman fetish for RMs (Return Missionaries) she wasn't afraid to talk frankly about subjects like sex, prior to the marriage. Most "good" LDS girls/women I knew as a young man, would sooner turn to stone than openly discuss sex. Sex? SEX??!! (insert scream of horror) Good girls never talk about that!!!!

#95 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2007, 06:31 PM:


I can't remember whether it's in scripture, and if so, where, but the women-in-heaven thing is far too widespread to be just another FPR (faith promoting rumor, for those outside the fold). In fact, there were many YW lessons around it. The deal is, to get into the Celestial Kingdom you need the priesthood. Either you are ordained a priest, or you must marry one in the temple. Women of course have been denied the priesthood through having Magical BabyMaking Properties. Therefore, the guys-in-suits would tell us, we didn't need it, and in fact, the whole "priesthood" thing was just to give men equal footing with women. Never mind that we still couldn't get into the CK without one.

To mollify us, we were told that any extraneous women who were unable to be married in this life would be assigned a worthy priesthood holder in the next. Since, as we all know, women are more righteous than men. (ahem) This justified the whole polygamy thing.

To be fair, an unmarried (or un-priesthood-married) woman could get into the other two levels of heaven, both millions of times better than earth with no problems; we are only barred from the tippy-top level.

The belief of individual mormons may vary; when I was younger and crankier, I used to confront my mom with these sexist and horrifying teachings. She would just get uncomfortable and and say that maybe all would become clear in the afterlife.

#96 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2007, 06:42 PM:

True missionary story- heard directly from the source (and I've seen the illustrations)- re Nathan @85, PJ@74:

I have an acquaintance who does illustrations. He works from home, and will usually have models of things-to-be-illustrated scattered about his workdesk.

Years ago, he was working on his version of Dante's Inferno.

Missionaries came to the door. He, needing a break, went to the porch and spoke with them. He likely did claim some rare religious belief, but missionaries get that all the time.

The talk became a negotiations, ending with him saying "ok, you can come in and talk, and then have a prayer for me, as long as you agree for me to then have a prayer with you, based on my religion."

The missionaries agreed. They came in, they talked, they prayed.

It was then his turn: "Now I'm going to pray: you'll pray with me." He went to the curtain that blocked the view of his desk. He pulled it back to reveal the many skulls, candles, knives, hooks and other models needed for the Inferno.

They (he says) ran. They (corroborated by his wife) never have returned. Not even after moving, not even after the kids grew from toddlers to teens.

#97 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2007, 07:13 PM:

"They (he says) ran. They (corroborated by his wife) never have returned. Not even after moving, not even after the kids grew from toddlers to teens."

You know... this arouses my curiousity. When I was younger, up until a couple years after I was fresh out of college, I used to be the recipient of several unsolicited invitations per year to discuss religion with missionaries of several odd American stripes, Mormons, Witnesses, YouNameThem™. Then, one day, it stopped. I haven't had a visit for, let's see, almost twenty years now.

It didn't occur to me to think about the circumstances of my last encounter with missionaries until just this moment. I suppose it might have been somewhat traumatic for the missionaries, though I don't really know. Do they keep lists of people never to bother ever again once they've been declared officially Lost?

In my case, it wasn't quite as good as that of your friend, the illustrator. I had merely fallen asleep on the floor of my then SignificantOther's loft apartment in Long Beach, California after having been awoken at 0600 to be sexually ravaged and left to fend for myself for the rest of the day. There I was, lying completely nude on the floor, hung the hell completely over, the door to the apartment thrown wide open— how did that happen? I don't know, and I probably never will— with the sunlight gently warming me into a pleasant pre-wakeful lightly dreaming sleep... and that's when the nice, conservatively dressed man with his twelve- or thirteen-year-old daughter in the tasteful floor-length peasant dress came to ring the doorbell.

I stood up. I walked casually to the door, smiled and greeted them with as much pleasantry as I could muster under the circumstances. Apparently, they were shocked by my easy lack of modesty. They handed me some copies of some tract or another and promised they'd come back when I was more presentable. They never did. I was really disappointed, because most of my friends had really wonderful stories to tell about freaking out the missionaries, and I was really looking forward to having one of my own. Alas... no.

To this day, I'm still a little confused when I see the Mormons in my neighborhood in San Francisco. They always skip my door and leave my family alone, and I wonder why that is...

#98 ::: PublicRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2007, 07:19 PM:


Hmmmm, the "version" I always got was that neither a woman NOR a man could enter the CK w/o temple marriage; hence there was a ton of speculating in my LDS circle that Christ was, in fact, married before he was crucified--since it seemed plainly obvious that a CK without Christ was a bass-ackwards arrangement.

My wife the Womens Studies major always gets hit with questions from her university cohorts about the church and its patriarchal structure.

She agrees with the church-sponsored idea that women enjoy a sort of exhaltation-by-default on account of being able to give birth. She also believes that the Priesthood is a way to give men a higher purpose beyond their base and selfish desires; something that will force them to step up and be responsible.

And yes, she tends to take a pretty dim view of the male gender et al. How she ended up and remains LDS is a question of spirituality and her own individual path she's chosen.

Anyway, I won't debate the feminist POV on the church, mostly because I can see why lots of women think it's bullshit. The #1 reason my aunt is bitter and angry and left the church is because of the patriarchy, and from a non-LDS perspective all her arguments make sense.

#99 ::: PublicRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2007, 07:37 PM:


We're not totally clueless. If we get the (strong) hint that people don't want us around, we try to pass on the hint so that other LDS don't make fools of themselves, or make you angry.

Again, I am not a fan of proselytizing. I don't like doing it, and avoid this 'responsibility' because I don't really believe in it for myself. But some of us do try to not be total dolts about it.

I can't speak for the JW's or other proselytizers. Dunno what their system is, or if they have a system.

And here is a message for the whole thread:

When next you get accosted by the LDS missionaries in particular, and feel like making a bit of sport out of it, please remember that these are very YOUNG men and women, many of them none too comfortable with what they've been asked to do; not a few of them out there at the stern behest of parents and grandparents and whatnot. They have no interest in being the object of sport, and if you think their being LDS and/or on a proselytizing mission makes them fair game for your assholery, I think that speaks poorly of your generosity as a person.

Just be polite and demure and, if necessary, express firmly that you have no interest in the church, don't want the pitch, would like very much not to be visited in the future, etc. If they are caring about the job they are doing, most LDS missionaries will respect your wants and will let you alone.

Being a jackass about it means they'll just walk away muttering, "Dang, Bro, that guy/gal was a total loser!" And they'd be right.

#100 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2007, 08:13 PM:

PublicRadioVet #99 wrote:
"When next you get accosted by the LDS missionaries in particular, and feel like making a bit of sport out of it, please remember that these are very YOUNG men and women, many of them none too comfortable with what they've been asked to do; not a few of them out there at the stern behest of parents and grandparents and whatnot. They have no interest in being the object of sport, and if you think their being LDS and/or on a proselytizing mission makes them fair game for your assholery, I think that speaks poorly of your generosity as a person."

I want to make something clear. If, as a result of my response to their proselytising, an LDS missionary again bursts into tears that will not be the result of my "assholery" but of the racist doctrines which have been officially promulgated by the Mormon church and are contained in Mormon scripture. If you are going to try to persuade people of the truth of your religion, you have an obligation to know what you are talking about. This is not a matter of "making a bit of sport about it", it is an issue of confronting an organisation and a doctrine that is racist and opposed to interracial marriage when a member of that organisation deliberately intrudes themselves upon me. As a product of an interracial marriage, and a participant in such myself, I don't consider pointing out racism to be sport.

For an interesting presentation on racism in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints you might look here. It's particularly interesting that a text which is supposed to be the direct word of god was later altered to suppress a particularly racist statement.

I have had some experience as a victim of racism, and for that reason I am implacable in my opposition to it. If that makes me an "asshole" in your opinion, I'll take that as a compliment.

#101 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2007, 08:56 PM:

Just be polite and demure and, if necessary, express firmly that you have no interest in the church, don't want the pitch, would like very much not to be visited in the future, etc.

I'm polite to salespeople on my doorstep. Too polite, my co-houser would say. But demure? Why do you use the word "demure"? That I should be shy and modest at my own door? Piffle.

If I'm busy, I tell them that. If not too busy, I'll ask questions just as I'm asked questions. If, for example, they don't know how easy it is to look up genetic sequences they'll get to find out. If they don't know the past 100,000 year history of modern humans, or the past 5,000,000 years of happenings in geological America, I'd like to know. They can leave any time they want to.

But I think they have an obligation to see that they're the interruption. I don't have to understand their motivations, and purity-of-intent doesn't change the results.

They're the salesmen, and if they're treated better than how most people treat phone spammers,* it's because we're hardwired to be more social creatures in person.

I work at home. They have come onto my property, ringing my bell, interrupting my day in order to sell me magazines, or steak, or roofing, or coupons, or religion... salespeople for all of which I've seen in the past month. If I include the phone ringing, they might be the 5th interruption I've had that day. That's what they should understand.

...would like very much not to be visited in the future

But they don't have my name (if they do, that'd both odd and creepy), and I'm under no obligation to tell them my name. If I move, they'll just come again. I don't begrudge them their choice to visit again, but that's their choice. And if I want to get or to give food-for-thought to make up for the bell-derailed train-of-thought they made, that's my right.

* Having once worked next to a phone bank (non-scam), where I got to talk with people working there, I'm almost more sympathetic to the phoner spammers. They were getting $1 or $2 more per hour than minimum wage ($2k-$4k more per year if full-time) at a job that didn't have physical risks (vs fast food, say). They had to take the job that pays better. No one has to sell me religion door-to-door.

#102 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2007, 09:13 PM:


It wasn't that I didn't welcome the opportunity dialogue with my fellow citizens about religion and other matters of deep, personal philosophy. I generally do. It's just that... well, watch this film by John Safran for an idea of what I think about their sense of the proper time and place for it.

#103 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2007, 09:27 PM:

Isaac Bonewits tells a story about having been in what they called an "Aquarian" (Pagan) household back in the 70s, and having Jehovah's Witnesses from upstairs come and bother them every Sunday (? I think) morning. If I'm not mistaken JWs have their meetings (or whatever they call them) on Friday nights.

At any rate, these JWs were unusually rude and unusually lazy (they just did the whole apartment building each week). Isaac's pals got doorbelled out of a sound (and sometimes hung-over) sleep one too many times.

One early Saturday morning, Isaac put on a cloak and a horned helmet (I swear I'm not making this up) and rang their bell. When a very sleepy JW answered the door, he said "You know, Odin hung on the tree for nine days and nights to bring you the Runes of Knowledge, and I think you should know about it."

He claims they were never bothered again.

#104 ::: Cysteine ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2007, 09:40 PM:

I'm finding this discussion of Mormonism fascinating. Regarding racism in the LDS church, since this week marks the 29th anniversary of the overturning of the ban there's a series of posts over at (an LDS blog). I would agree we aren't taught much as LDS people about the priesthood ban, and to be perfectly honest, most of us probably never investigate much, so it's unsurprising LDS missionaries aren't able to answer many questions on the ban.

It's a tough subject to tackle. I remember doing a paper on the relationship between blacks and the LDS church as a senior in college, and doing a miserable job on it because I had a hard time reconciling what I was reading with my view of my religion, even though I wasn't active at the time. I'm not sure there really are satisfactory answers to why blacks were denied full membership in the church for so long, although I personally suspect much of the blame can be laid at the door of certain leaders doggedly clinging to conservative ideals.

The justification for the ban rests on the idea of "Cain's curse" or "Ham's Curse," which was widely believed at the time of Joseph Smith and certainly not unique to Mormons. I also think the persecution of Mormons , especially over polygamy, created a certain amount of stubborn resistance to accepting outside ideas. The civil rights movement was certainly an outside idea and I think, first of all, the proper people had to be in place for the ban to be removed, and second, I think removing the ban could not be perceived as a response to anything other than revelation.

#105 ::: miriam beetle ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2007, 09:44 PM:


Now there's got to be an interesting story behind that!

well, her japanese buddhist family were in mormon alberta because they had been deported there from coastal british columbia*. & her elementary school classmates would enthusiastically preach mormonism to her, promising that if she converted & lived right she could totally make it into the second-best heaven**. she found this less than enticing.

*it wasn't until i took up with my fella & moved to canada that i learned that people of japanese descent had been rounded up & put into camps, there, too. some, like my fella's dad's family, moved back to bc after the war, but others couldn't afford it (as, of course, they never got their property or assets back) or didn't have enough reason to relocate again.

** i don't know from mormon theology, but from threads here & the page fragano linked, i'd guess this was an elementary-school-mormon mishmosh of havin various heavens, depending on degrees of holiness, & coloured peoples' (including asians, in the eyes of her classmates) best fate being serving whites for all eternity.

#106 ::: miriam beetle ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2007, 09:53 PM:

it's also been interesting explaining the whole "sons of ham" thing to asian people (once to a vietnamese friend, recently to my boyfriend) who hadn't heard of it before.

we weren't taught, in jewish school in the eighties & nineties, that the curse on ham was a justification for african slavery. but i do remember at least one teacher maintaining that it was a fact that africans were descended from ham, jews & arabs from shem (thus: semite), & japeth was the ancestor of all greeks, who became all europeans.

i had to inform my friend & my boyfriend that there was no place east of the middle east (or if there was, it remained totally unpopulated), & they, unfortunately, were imaginary.

#107 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2007, 10:28 PM:

Mormon nerds...

I remember going to church dances and pining terribly for the two geeks in the stake, but never actually dancing with either of them. In retrospect, I think it was less that I wasn't Molly enough than I was just not sure I was interested in guys. I knew I was supposed to be (per the many Young Women lessons having less to do with Jesus than snagging a man and being a good wife) but I couldn't reconcile that with my lack of motivation.

Last year we were visited by missionaries. If we had a peephole, I would never have opened the door. They were so young! And one of them could see the giant wall of geek, with all my and my roommate's autographed photos from many sci-fi cons. While his partner stayed on message with the "Heavenly Father's Plan For Us" stuff, he kept kind of hopping up to get a better look, and asked questions about conventions we had gone to.

Since they had been tracting in Hollywood, I knew they must have had a rough day. I would have invited them in for Lemonade and Firefly, with the rule that religion not be discussed, but I know they have a rule about not going into a household with no other men present.

Fragano - your response was absolutely appropriate. Mom tells me they've had an influx of African-Americans in their congregation. She loves the diversity. I shudder to think what will happen when these new congregants find out the actual history.

#108 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2007, 10:29 PM:

PRV: Other people have taken slices off your idea that we should be nice to Mormon missionaries. I'll come at it from another angle: if these are such impressionable young people, maybe some of them can still be taught to \think/. (In contrast to, say, swallowing what's under Teresa's recent particle; see "Mormonism says farewell".)Sometimes politeness is useful; sometimes a shock is. I've never tried debating because I'm not as good as I'd like to be at realtime.

Mind you, I've gotten one of your Y&I, who whined that I was being rude; I have little patience with religion at the best of times, and even less when I'm trying to unsnarl 100' of 12/3 cord so I can mow the lawn and weedwhack the wall before the air gets too hot to do either. At least they had the sense to go away. (Unlike the JWs who justified their rude nickname by trying both the front and side/back doors of our not-large-enough-to-be-divided house....)

There are many stories involving pagan-esque responses to proselytizers (of any stripe); some of them are too good to be true (or at least, to be unitary instead of composite) -- or so I judge, not having lived in the craziest parts of Cambridge where the best one I've heard was set. The several here have been very amusing.

#109 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2007, 10:39 PM:

Back on the caffeine thing -- what is the LDS view of caffeine used as medicinal rather than recreational drug? Because I am not a coffee drinker, nor a great one for cola other than as something I can drink instead of alcohol in restaurants and pubs (I'm a supertaster), but in the last couple of years I've taken to making sure I have some cans of Coke in the house specifically for slamming down a large dose of sugar and caffeine at the first hint of a migraine. As I recall, Teresa keeps a stash of extra-strength ready-to-drink caffeine for the same purpose.

#110 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2007, 10:58 PM:

Maybe they grow a less hardy breed of Mormon missionary up here in New England, because I've never had to say anything more dramatic than "No thank you; I'm not interested" to make them go away.

(On the other hand, I've been accused in the past of having a naturally forbidding countenance -- I've never really thought so myself, but I've been told so more than once, to which all I can say is that I can't help how my face looks when I'm not doing anything else with it -- so maybe that's why they leave.)

#111 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2007, 10:59 PM:

PublicRadioVet @ 99: Just be polite and demure

I beg your pardon?

I was following your comments with interest until I hit that.

Just who the hell are you to tell me to be demure under any circumstances? Much less that I should be demure to some stranger who is interrupting me in order to tell me my way of life is all wrong and I need to adopt his?

You may wish to visit the interesting discussion we have going on about sexism and male privilege in the Joss Whedon thread. It may clue you in as to why someone might be more than a little peeved at your suggestion.

#112 ::: PublicRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2007, 11:46 PM:

Fragano @ #100: I was not speaking of your story, but rather of the little bit of bragging that was starting up from other people, wherein they began comparing tales of how they had "scared off" the missionaries through jest or through odd or outrageous behavior. Unless you were deliberately rude to the young woman in question, I'm not sure my comment applies. Why, precisely, did she cry, do you think? Was it horror at her lack of knowledge about her own religion? Was it horror at the fact that her church used to deny African American men the Priesthood? Not having been there, I can't know why she cried. I can only assume that she was upset for some reason.

Kathryn @ #101: I meant demure as a verb, in that you can politely turn them down without shouting or raising your voice, as some people seem to have done. Again, these are not hard-bitten Willy Loman clones out there shilling. They are, quite often, very young and insecure people carrying out an obligation based on duty to their church, their family, their culture; not because they like it or are overwhelmingly on fire to go preach. Many of them (most of them?) would probably rather get out of those suits and go play XBOX or something. I understand if you are annoyed at having your work day interrupted, especially if the missionary doing it cannot take a hint, but in the future, would it be too much to ask for a little compassion? These kids have feelings too.

And yes, they might not recall your name but they will remember your house and where it is located and if you firmly express your desire that they NOT VISIT, they will take that seriously and will leave you alone. A softly but firmly expressed desire to not be bothered will go a long way whereas shouting and/or four-letter tirades will simply get you labeled as a weirdo or a deliberately rude person, and they will forget about you and then some time later a new pair of young kids will come through your neighborhood, have no idea that you don't want them to stay away, and then it starts all over again.

woodyatt @ #102: I agree 100% there is a proper time and place to engage in all kinds of different conversations; hence my disclaimer that I personally am not a fan of proselytizing. Notice that I am simply trying to remind people that it might be nice if they remembered these are essentially children they are dealing with, most of whom are not entirely thrilled to be knocking on your door either. I don't mind if people think the LDS church sucks or that proselytizing is annoying. I do wish they would remember that (in the case of LDS missionaries) there is a young and usually akward young human on the other end of the deal.

Aconite @ #111: What I said to Kathryn, the word being used as a verb. Perhaps I have used it incorrectly. As I have commonly read it in fiction, for example, the sentence goes something like, "Not wanting to upset his host, our hero demured when offered the soup of boiled rhino testicles." That was the context in which I was using it. I am not using demured in its adjective sense. I'm using it in the politely-said-no-thank-you sense.

#113 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2007, 12:08 AM:

"I do wish they would remember that (in the case of LDS missionaries) there is a young and usually akward young human on the other end of the deal."

Why, yes— precisely the kind of person most likely to benefit from exposure to freethinking and libertine atheists. Alas, they appear to have started using some kind of data mining operation to identify candidates for proselytization, and I very much doubt that my name lands near the top of the list of "low-hanging fruit" in San Francisco for most of these groups, including LDS.

I can't help but wonder, though— is their a religious aspect to their efforts to choose easier targets for proselytization than me, or is it a purely pragmatic decision on their part.

I'd ask, but they don't seem to want to talk to me.

#114 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2007, 12:27 AM:

PRV @112: you are correct, you are using it incorrectly. Demur and demure are two different words, spelt and pronounced differently, and your use of the latter was good reason for people to take offence.

It appears that what you intended to say was "demur", "demurred" in past tense (note the double r), in which case your post was a good deal less offensive than it appears -- but there is a reason you are being jumped on. Please go and look up those two words in a dictionary before using either of them again.

#115 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2007, 12:28 AM:

PRV, that word does not mean what you think it means. Go look at a dictionary, please.

#116 ::: broundy ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2007, 12:44 AM:

PublicRadioVet: The word you're looking for is "demur," or in past tense "demurred" - to make objection, esp. on the grounds of scruples; take exception; object (

"Demure" means "characterized by shyness and modesty" and given its connotations of "be a good little girl, now" people were right to object.

/end vocabulary lesson>

#117 ::: PublicRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2007, 01:03 AM:

Regarding the racism of the LDS church....

A lengthy subject. Worth much discussion.

Before I start I should state that I am a caucasian male married in the temple to a non-caucasian female of mixed ancestry whom most white people think is "black", but we don't know for sure because she was adopted as a baby and her biological lineage is lost to us.

I was born and raised LDS. My wife was raised in a Catholic house, and then lapsed into general agnosticism as an adult, before converting to the LDS church in 1991 when she was 29.

So I think I can approach this subject without seeming too ivory tower or lacking in intimate knowledge.

Are there racists in the LDS church? Oh, most assuredly. They are an embarrassment to every LDS person and I have been enraged to the point of desiring violence the few times I have witnessed such racism directed at my wife. Such racism is contrary to the will of Christ and there is no place for it in the heart of any Christian.

Is the LDS church currently racist in practice or doctrine? You might have to ask people like Gladys Knight or Thurl Bailey that question. I am not sure anybody is going to rely on the answer of a white man for this, because racism can be transparent to me in ways it's not transparent to non-whites; that much I know from having lived with and be married to a non-white woman for almost 14 years.

I take heart from the fact that the LDS church has a strong Asian component, Polynesian component, and Latino component. This is beginning to be reflected in the church leadership, and I would not be surprised to see an Asian or Latin American in the Quorum of the 12 before long; perhaps even on the First Council or sitting as President.

African American Mormons are few in number, but growing; people like Gladys Knight being more prominently known because of their histories in our popular culture. It is my opinion that African and African American LDS members display an extraordinary degree of courage when they join, precisely because of the Uncle Tom factor. Why on earth would any African or African American belong to a church run by a bunch of white old men and which only a few decades ago prevented African and African American men from full participation?

Obviously, there is something in their hearts which calls them to the faith. No other way to explain it. They risk ostracism from fellow Africans and African Americans, and they risk the racism that some white Mormons still display. So it's a double whammy, and I take my hat off to the African and African American membership; theirs is a singularly difficult choice.

Because it cannot be denied that the Church's former policy on African American men being unable to hold full Priesthood or leadership positions in the church is a significant blemish on both the history and culture of the church. Likewise the admonishment against "mixing seed", familiar to all our (meaning LDS peoples') grandparents and even some of our parents, is a blemish. As a seed-mixer I know my choice of mate caused quite a stir with some of the more traditional elements of my extended family, and I know my wife has been loathe to confront some of the more "country" types who frequent family reunions.

If I had the power to go back and change history, I have often thought that this racist legacy within the LDS faith is one of the things I would change. I find no rational explanation for it, and can only throw up my hands and say, to the questioner, that the church leadership of the 19th and 20th centuries were products of their age; and in 19th and early 20th century America, white racism against blacks was pandemic and pervasive. It penetrated everything, ran deep through even the denominations of Christ; even unto the little church that sets itself up as the Christian faith.

Is that an excuse? No. It's an explanation.

Does this make the LDS church hopelessly flawed and therefore everything else about the church becomes suspect? Fragano seems to think so. But then, I think Fragano would do well to chat up Thurl Bailey or Gladys Knight or my wife or any other non-white (and especially darkly non-white) LDS member, and hear their perspective.

Me, I'm just a white guy grateful that I live in an era when such church policy is receding in the rearview mirror. My father, a worldly businessman and former servicemember, speaks painfully of having to carry that racist policy around his neck, even though he knew it was bullshit, and so did most of his peers who weren't from the Utah sticks. He speaks of being tremendously relieved when, finally, the church announced that this policy was being scuttled.

Cynics have mocked this decision as being too little, too late. But then, cynics mock most everything about the LDS church, so I don't pay much attention to that.

People are free to believe as they will. I don't ask them to accept my religion in the same way I accept it. Their paths are their own and in spite of church doctrine which claims that our church is for all, I am realistic enough to know that, in practicality, our church is only for some. And I am satisfied with that. And I am satisfied that the racial and cultural diversity of the church continues to grow, in spite of the past. This, more than anything, tells me that we're on the right track, and that anyone who denounces the church straight out, as racist, probably has not looked at the whole picture.

#118 ::: PublicRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2007, 01:06 AM:

broundy @ #116: AH! Thanks! Yah learn something new every day on this blog.

Lizzy, I hope I can be forgiven for mispelling the word. I had not realized that demurred had two r's, or that demur had no e.

#119 ::: PublicRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2007, 01:16 AM:

Julia @ #114: Thanks to you and broundy. Yes, I see the error now.

woodyatt: I find it amusing that you seem to assume that someone young and religious is automatically in need of "enlightenment", as it were. CHip at #108 seems to share this view.

Speaking as a post-agnostic* I seem to recall feeling this way about some of my LDS friends at the time I actually called myself an agnostic. It was a short time, really, but the memories are still vivid. I remember thinking to myself, "What sheep all these LDS people are! They need to open their eyes! I should help them!"

Alas, it was not their eyes which needed opening, nor they that were in need of help.

But that's a whole other Oprah.

* I dropped out of the church entirely from age 17 to 19, did not attend meetings, pretty much washed my hands of the whole thing in practical terms and stopped believing in my heart

#120 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2007, 01:29 AM:

PRV: it helps that you stopped and explained what you thought you were saying, which made it clear what had happened. :-)

And yes, I will generally be polite, at least initially, to young missionaries for the reason you suggest. There have been exceptions, but in general I have found, "Sorry lads, not interested," to be all that is required to send them on their way.

If they persist, then they're fair game, of course...

#121 ::: PublicRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2007, 01:32 AM:

Julia, regarding medicinal caffeine,

I imagine just about anything prescribed by a physician would pass with LDS leadership. But LDS members all on their own, going out and gulping energy drinks or guzzling Jolt, I am sure that kind of thing would be frowned upon.

I think much comes down to intent. For any LDS person. Does the physical need serve as a reason? Or is it merely an excuse?

Still, the Caffeine Wars rage....

#122 ::: PublicRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2007, 01:35 AM:

Julia again,

That's a good attitude you have, and I like it.

And just for the record, my willingness to apologize for my brothers and sisters spreading The Word ends where their cluelessness or lack of manners begins.

Anyone displaying poor tact, poor taste, poor hearing, or poor understanding, whether they have a black badge on them that says SISTER or ELDER or not, is on their own!


#123 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2007, 01:50 AM:

j h woodyat @ 89

I am soooo sorry I took so long to find that one. ROFLMAO and seriously perturbing smooth analytic functions.

#124 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2007, 03:01 AM:

PRV @112,

With my story of the illustrator, I didn't say- I don't know- what type of missionary they were. One thing I know they were was warned. They just chose not to believe him before coming in.

And JHW seems to have been nothing but polite, except that he'd not unnaked himself after a sunbeam nap. Should the non-body-shy have to worry about the body-shy even at home? I know some people might be scared of seeing my neck or arms, but I'm not going to wear an abaya just for them.

As for me- I'm not rude, nor angry, nor generally uncompassionate towards youngsters caught up in adult/peer/culture pressure.

But if they're going to be asking me about what I might have lacking in my life, then I'm going to ask them questions about what might be lacking in their lives. If they want to learn something about me, I'm going to learn something about them.

many of them (most of them?) would probably rather get out of those suits and go play XBOX or something

At that age I was attending college full time, and working at a minimum-wage job as much as possible (full time in summer, part time the rest). I didn't have time to play video games (I used to have mad Tempest skillz), and barely had time to read non-textbook books. We all make our choices.

Whatever their motivations- and, again, why would motivations count more than results?- they chose to talk to me. I get to choose to talk to them. Sure, they are quite young, but that's the combination-choice of the kids themselves and the church that sends them out so young. Why not have the mission years be 22-24? Or 62-64?

#125 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2007, 03:15 AM:

We haven't had JW missionaries in the 15.5 years I've lived here, but the one time the Mormons were here, they were told by someone other than me that they were violating the law. These days, we mostly get folks from black Christian churches and I open the door and ask them if they noticed the "no trespassing"* signs at all the entrances to the development and did their religion condone illegal acts?

* I originally typed "tresspassing" which I suppose would mean making your hair pass for someone else's.

#126 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2007, 03:24 AM:

I've had my share of Mormon missionaries come by over the years, and they've been an interruption and occasional nuisance.

But I always remember the group of them who were diverted from their mission in Brazil to come work in the Red Cross Shelter after the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989. My student co-op had basically sponsored the place, so I was there a lot.

Hard workers. Not afraid of getting into whatever work needed doing. Friendly to the frightened, comforting to the upset. And they were white, and most of the people in the shelter were black, if that's of any interest.

#127 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2007, 05:03 AM:

Kathryn, #101: Have you considered getting a "No Soliciting" sign for your door? They're very cheap at any office-supplies store.

The one problem with them is that, while they're reasonably effective in discouraging most door-to-door salesmen, for some reason the ones who are selling religion* seem to consider themselves Speshul and not required to pay attention. However, it also makes it possible to ask them, "Can you read?" and when they say yes, point to the sign and say, "Then DO SO!" *slam*

Marilee, #125: I used to do the same thing when I'd get Southern Baptist proselytizers at my old condo. You know what each and every one of them responded? "Oh, that doesn't mean us, because we're not trespassing!"

Yes, they really seriously believed that because they were there to Save People's Souls it didn't count as trespassing.

PRV, I don't care how young and naive and well-intentioned they are. They are obnoxious nuisances, and they are trespassing on my property and intruding on my privacy, and I am under no obligation to treat them any differently than I'd treat the Fuller Brush man. They get ONE chance to accept a polite "not interested, go away"; if they push it after that, on their own heads be the result.

* Yes, selling. They like to claim that their primary interest is in your soul, but sooner or later they want money... or their church does.

#128 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2007, 08:57 AM:

PublicRadioVet, perhaps you can explain to me why you feel I have some obligation to see to it that young people who are participating in the selling of a religion with many beliefs I find offensive, by a method I find intrusive, predatory*, and rude, are not made uncomfortable by their choice to participate in that dynamic.

If White Pride were to send their young members door to door to do the same kind of recruitment, would you still feel I'm obligated to be nice to them on the grounds they're young and under a lot of social pressure to do that?

Perhaps young people who encounter doors slamming in their faces when they go to spread the word might start thinking about why they're getting that reception, instead of going along with something you say they're uncomfortable with out of social pressure. Maybe the time in their lives when they're being pushed to go out and spread the word about how fabulous their faith is is precisely the time they should be giving it a close examination and seeing if there are parts of it they think aren't so fabulous. Maybe, just maybe, they should start to wonder why they get such negative responses.

Incidentally, I notice you only apologize for misspelling the word "demur," not for offending anyone by your use of the wrong word. With the discussion of male privilege fresh in my mind, I can't help but think of the one that basically states, "If I am male, I may comfortably and confidently assume that other people will put forth effort to understand me, even if I don't communicate very well."

* Yes, predatory. You are not there to meet me as a person. You are not there to engage with me as another human being. Those are not the ultimate goals of the encounter; they are, at best, means to an end. You are hunting people to recruit for your faith, no matter how you soft-pedal it, and I will not be a party to predation by responding to it as if it is something other than that. I am not prey, and I am under no obligation to coddle youngsters being trained to think of me as prey.

#129 ::: PublicRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2007, 10:45 AM:

Aconite @ #128:

Regarding "demur", it was an honest mistake. Make of it what you will. I'm not going to open a vein over it because it's been my experience some people will use any excuse to become highly offended. I already acknowledged the error. If that's not good enough for you, oh well.

As for the rest, do what you want. I made my appeal. If you or anyone else still feels justified in going on the attack whenever the Elders or Sisters ring the doorbell, I obviously cannot stop you. Maybe you'll be successful in causing one of them to become so disturbed that they fall from their faith.

More probably, you'll get remembered as being just another rude, angry or combative person, and they'll move on and put you out of their minds because they're not out there to go to war with your type; they're out there for the one household in ten that genuinely shows an interest in the church, invites them in, begins the discussions, etc.

Again, I am not a fan of proselytizing. But I am a fan of those young men and women. They're good people, mostly. I think they've got heart to do what they do, in spite of all they have going against them. More heart than I ever had at that age. So you'll forgive me if I try to give them a human face whereas some people on this thread appear to be a little too comfortable making them into the Other.

#130 ::: PublicRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2007, 10:53 AM:

abi @ #126: that's a great story! Thanks for sharing it here.

#131 ::: Seth Gordon ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2007, 10:57 AM:

When The Jewish Catalog was being compiled, one Brandeis professor--I forget his name--agreed to be listed in an appendix of resources as an expert on the Bible. He didn't expect the Catalog to become such a runaway best-seller, and ended up fielding phone calls from Jewish hippies at every odd hour of the day and night.

So, the story goes, one Saturday morning, he was woken by a knock, struggled into his bathrobe, opened the door, and the two perky young folks on his porch said, "Hi! Can we talk to you about the Bible?"

"All right," he sighed. "What do you want to know?"

#132 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2007, 10:57 AM:

Aconite@128: If I'm reading PRV's posts on the subject correctly, he intended "demur" (a not-indefensible verb in the context of the discussion, at least in my opinion), misspelled it "demure", and subsequently accepted correction and apologized for the misspelling. I'm not sure how much farther you think he should go -- an apology from him for offense taken on your part at something that was (if we are to believe him) unintended on his part would require more graciousness from him than I, at least, would feel like exhibiting under similar circumstances.

Of course, if you don't believe that the word in question was an accidental misspelling, all bets are off.

#133 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2007, 11:06 AM:

Miriam Beetle #105: I had no idea that Japanese-Canadians had been deported from BC. I knew about the internment of Japanese-Americans (some of whom ended up as far east as Arkansas), and of Japanese-Peruvians.

'Second-best heaven' doesn't sound very enticing, though, apparently if I'd died before the age of 22 I could have got in as a servant into the first-class section of heaven.

#134 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2007, 11:11 AM:

Debra Doyle @ 132: It may be a small thing, but he actually did not apologize for the misunderstanding, just the misspelling. I may be sensitized to this subtlety--intentional or not--at the moment because at least two individuals I caught plagiarizing responded with, "I'm sorry you thought I was plagiarizing," not "I plagiarized and I'm sorry."

PublicRadioVet @ 129: Maybe you'll be successful in causing one of them to become so disturbed that they fall from their faith.

I am unfailingly annoyed at people who think it would be a fine thing for me to fall from my faith to theirs presenting it as a tragedy if one of their own should fall from their faith to something else.

It is not my intention to influence anyone in their faith by my actions when they come to my door. It is my intention to make it clear that I wish to be left alone and find it offensive to be regarded as prey. I don't care what they take from that.

#135 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2007, 11:12 AM:

Nerdycellist #107: Thanks!

#136 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2007, 11:16 AM:

Debra Doyle: I should explain further than in those instances of plagiarism, the people involved did not understand that quoting a source without citing it was plagiarism. They made honest mistakes--but they did plagiarize, and kept insisting that lack of intent to plagiarize meant they had not done so.

#137 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2007, 11:20 AM:

Public Radio Vet #112: Thank you.

#138 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2007, 11:25 AM:

Aconite@136: Perhaps I'm a bit dense, but I'm unclear on how admitting to a misspelling becomes equivalent to not admitting to plagiarism.

#139 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2007, 11:28 AM:

One of the reasons I am kind to baby Mormon "elders" is that in my personal experience they are normally better-mannered than most of the doorstep nuisances around here.

The typical doorstep interaction with someone trying to sell me something is a cheery "hi, how are you?" with a hand held out in an attempt to get me to shake it, followed by a certain amount of "I'm your bestest friend" waffle before they get around to the sting. This may be simply a cultural difference (Brit in California), but to me this reads like a deliberate attempt to exploit social signals to make them feel like someone with a legitimate claim on my attention, thus making it harder for me to tell them to go away once they get around to telling me what the scam is. And repressed Brit that I am, I *resent* complete strangers behaving as if they've just been introduced to me by a mutual friend/acquaintance, especially when it's clearly an attempt to soften me up for something.

The Mormon missionaries, on the other hand, wear name badges that make it clear what they are, generally make it clear that they're missionaries within the first sentence, and usually accept "not interested" with good grace instead of trying to make me feel guilty or arguing with me. They're still doorstep spammers, but they're a lot less annoying than most I see. That's not always been my experience, but I get the impression that the adult-in-charge for *this* parish is well aware that annoying people is counter-productive.

#140 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2007, 11:31 AM:

In re why the underwear gets so much attention: I believe it's a normal person thing, and I can only understand it, if at all, from the outside.

Neurotypical syndrome is a neurobiological disorder characterized by preoccupation with social concerns, delusions of superiority, and obsession with conformity.

As far as I can tell, underwear is intrinsically funny to normal people, and they have trouble dealing with anything which brings their attention to it. The most extreme reactions to underwear tend to fade as people get past childhood, but not completely.

In case you were wondering, I don't think I'm autistic. I don't think I've quite got Asbergers. I do think that, for good and ill, I don't have a standard set of social reflexes.

#141 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2007, 11:35 AM:

Public Radio Vet #117 wrote: "Does this make the LDS church hopelessly flawed and therefore everything else about the church becomes suspect? Fragano seems to think so. But then, I think Fragano would do well to chat up Thurl Bailey or Gladys Knight or my wife or any other non-white (and especially darkly non-white) LDS member, and hear their perspective."

I would do well, would I? How nice.

#142 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2007, 11:51 AM:

Debra Doyle @ 138: I can see I'm not being clear at all. Sorry. It's not those two parts that I'm seeing as equivalent; it's the lack of an indication that "I did something that caused harm I didn't intend; sorry--that wasn't what I meant to do."

Perhaps it's a cultural thing. I was taught to apologize for unintentional offense, not just say "Whoops," because that's taking responsibility for the effect of a mistake you made. It's not necessary to grovel, but it should, I think, at least be acknowledged that your mistake led someone to believe you had done something they might reasonably take offense at.

It's simply the difference between, "Oh, I made a mistake" and "Oh, that wasn't what I meant--sorry." A small thing, perhaps, but soothing unintentionally ruffled feathers shows you care about the effects of your words or deeds on others, whereas expecting it to go without saying borders on rude, in my culture.

#143 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2007, 11:57 AM:

So late to the party.

Jehovoah's Witness story.

I was about 12, had the day off from school (parish school, I believe it was the parish' patron saint's day).

About noon there's a knock on the door. I open it to find an elderly (I was 12, they were in their 60's, it was 30 years ago) couple.

They ask me (who probably looked all of 9) if I knew The Name of God. Being the precocious child I was, and an altar boy, and having (in the laundromat read some Watchtower... it was there, I was bored, it was words on a page) I said something to the effect of, "He has many names, God, Yaweh, Allah, Vishnu, and others I can't recall, but the one you want is Jehovah."

They went away.

Story about evangelical types: Waiting on line for a movie (Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves, opening night; we didn't know how bad it was). It happened to be my birthday, and I'd gotten a huge crowd, about thirty, to show up in garb (friends from the Faire), so we were quite the sight.

A pair of prayerful types decided we must need saving. They were pushy, they were persistent, and they finally got my goat, so I said, in response to them saying "you need to read the bible,", that they might benefit from reading Matt 6:5-7 (the verse about hypocrites on street corners), more than I needed to read John 3:16.

One of them finally went to a street lamp and looked the verse up. He got his friend, who read it.

He came back, apoplectic, screaming at me that he was no hypocrite, he was there to save my God-damned soul.

I laughed at him, and he went away.

Someone come to my door, to tell me my beliefs are inadequate, that I need to convert my way of thinking to things I've already rejected, or I will burn in hell/be excluded from paradise, gets the same shrift as any other salesmen.

Which is probably better than they deserve (no matter how much they believe in their cause). Someone who is trying to sell me Fuller Brushes, or tree-trimming, or carpet cleaning, etc., isn't telling me I am morally deficient, doomed to suffer if I don't change my ways and generally attacking my sense of self.

Missionaries are. The very nature of the work is such that they attack the values, and value, of the subject.

Just because the LDS missionaries are young, and may have bowed to pressure, doesn't entitle them any more slack than JWs, Fundie Bible Thumpers, aggressive political types, etc..

That I have a lot of LDS friends probably helps, because I understand they are, in the main; though with some scary, to my mind, prejudices; as a rule, decent people.

But if they don't take no for an answer, they are going to get hard questions (about things like barley and wheat, cities in the americas, with horses, chariots and metals, and the revisions to the inerrant revelations).

If that shakes ther faith, well they went into the world to testify, it ought to be tested.

And, to be blunt, since I think that faith to be, at best, flawed (I am, fundamentally, in my theistic thinking a Catholic) if they lose that faith, the only harm I see is if it leaves a gaping void in them.

Which isn't my problem.

#144 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2007, 11:59 AM:

Putting on my anthropologist panties, here and pontificating:

It seems to me that, over my lifetime, the larger mass of the LDS church has made steps toward becoming a "normal" religion, no more out of step with society than the Southern Baptists. The choice is to blend in with the greater society or become the kind of tourist attraction that various Mennonite sects have become, and Mormonism has always held within it the seeds of its own assimilationism (Amish don't seek converts, for instance, nor engage the general political culture).

All voluntary associations tend toward the cultural middle in the long run; institutions which wish to engage the larger society as part of that society quickly lose the features which most distinguish them from the group as a whole.

#145 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2007, 12:19 PM:

Aconite@142: I was brought up to apologize for offense intentionally given; I was also brought up in the understanding that an honestly-stated "I didn't mean to offend" constituted sufficient apology for offense unintentionally given. That I tend to read rejection of that apology on the grounds of insufficiency as a casting of doubt upon my truthfulness in giving it, and to read subsequent pressure for a fuller and differently-worded apology as a variety of emotional extortion, is so far as I can tell due less to my upbringing than to my own nature.

#146 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2007, 01:04 PM:

PRV: woodyatt: I find it amusing that you seem to assume that someone young and religious is automatically in need of "enlightenment", as it were...

I'd like to note for the record that the word I used was "exposure," not "enlightenment," and no— I don't wish to revise and extend my remarks.

#147 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2007, 01:19 PM:

JESR @#144: Putting on my anthropologist panties

See? Again with the underwear! :)

#148 ::: Clark E. Myers ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2007, 01:40 PM:

Just as I don't escalate my complaints with a waiter or a desk clerk when there is a manager so too I wouldn't be less than polite to a missionary when there is a Mission President or Counselor.

In a world where purple triangles have a special meaning - and bearing in mind Farthing and other such things, we don't need to learn so much as we need to be reminded - I prefer not to class Jehovah's Witnesses as other and as a free speech absolutist my door step is a free speech zone - but I have no compulsion to listen and I prefer to live in a make my day zone as well.

Obligatory possibly funny LDS story - in the days when BYU-I was still Ricks a small group of otherwise Molly Mormons was running an escort service - when called to account for it the first response was said to be: Oooh sorry, should have tithed?

FWIW I'm not on the rolls of any church.

#149 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2007, 02:40 PM:

Aconite, #128: Oddly enough, I woke up this morning thinking of a different parallel between this and the "male privilege" discussion. In each case, we have:

- Group A, the members of which simply want to be left alone;
- Group B, who consider themselves entitled to bother people in Group A;
- Specific members of Group B who insist on trying to tell Group A how they should behave in order not to cause offense to Group B -- without ever acknowledging that it is Group B's sense of entitlement which is the root of the problem.

Another analogy would be e-mail spam. We want an opt-in list, and the proselytizers are insisting on using an opt-out one. (Especially true when they ignore the "No Soliciting" sign on my door!)

Fragano, #141: Indeed. How very patronizing. You showed admirable restraint in not tearing him a new one.

Debra, #145: I'm with Aconite here, and I believe it must be a cultural difference. To me, if one has unintentionally given offense, the correct response includes some variation on, "Oops, sorry!" Otherwise, it reads as though the person really doesn't give a good goddamn about having goofed in a way that offended someone.

Side note: PRV's further comment about "some people will look for any excuse to be deeply offended" heavily reinforces that impression. IME, that phrase in this kind of context is a strong indicator that the person who gave offense (however inadvertently) doesn't consider the opinion of the person who was offended to be valid.

#150 ::: Mikael Johansson ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2007, 03:02 PM:

1st off - I'm unfamiliar with the terminology: what precisely does it mean for a Mormon to be Molly?

Further - I don't have any problem whatsoever avoiding talking to the local LDS missionaries, they do respect a "Not now, thank you" very graciously. They also never go door-to-door, instead stop you on the street as you walk by.

However, I enjoy discussing theology and religious thought very much. I won't convert as a result, but I do enjoy the discussion. So, when I'm not in a hurry, I'll stay and chat with the missionaries. I enjoy it, and I make it very clear very early that I am comfortable and determined in my view of (the non-necessity/non-existence) of any sort of deity. I try to make sure they get exit points early in the discussion, and they never ever take those.

Which in my opinion makes a serious discussion about the arguments they make pretty fair game. Rudeness never is, but meeting their arguments is.

#151 ::: Clark E. Myers ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2007, 03:07 PM:

#93 - doesn't the WoW state that everything god put on the earth is good for mankind, so long as it isn't abused? I'm paraphrasing

See first Timothy 1-6, which insofar as it properly translated smiley, is fair authority:

1 Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;
2 Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron;
3 Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.
4 For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving:
5 For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.
6 If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained.
emphasis added

See also

Colossians 2
2:16 Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:

Or as Ben Franklin is said to have preached - Beer is proof ......I’m not sure what priesthood Ben Franklin received but this may be a teaching of the Masons passed down from antiquity – certainly observed currently especially by the Shrine.

#152 ::: Lexica ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2007, 03:26 PM:

A question for Lee and Aconite (and anyone else who cares to respond): is the problem the "I wasn't trying to be offensive" part or the absence of "I'm sorry"?

I don't think I often (or ever, really) say things intending to offend someone. If someone lets me know they're offended, my response is generally along the lines of "Oh, I'm sorry -- I didn't mean to offend you. I won't do that again."

Am I just making it worse by saying that I wasn't trying to be offensive? Or does the "I'm sorry" and "I won't do that again" make it clear that I really do intend it as an apology, not an "I'm sorry IF you're offended" non-apology?

#153 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2007, 03:33 PM:

Cultures differ, to be sure. I was always taught that the proper response to an apology was to accept it graciously, not to return it marked up in red pencil for errors in form and content . . . then again, I was raised in the wild by wolverines and came but lately to civilization.

#154 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2007, 03:56 PM:

Thanks you, Mr. Myers.

Mykael (#150) - "Molly Mormon" is the colloquial term for a more-mormon-than-thou mormon female. Not just a woman who goes to church every Sunday, but one who is a World Class Homemaker - i.e. has covered every available surface with gingham, knows at least three recipes for jello salads by heart, shares her full testimony whenever required or hinted at, is relentlessly cheeful and sweet and constantly demurs to any Mormon male present. If old enough (over 18), she is married, and has kids, preferably a year apart, the first one arriving roughly 9 months after her wedding. These women can often be identified by their tea-length dresses with puff sleeves or butt-bow regardless of age. Condescending Holier-than-Thou attitude and passive aggression are not mandatory.

For those still in Young Women's, (between the ages of 12 and 18) the Molly is like a Jr. Version of the Fully-Grown model. In addition to her nascent homemaking skills, she professes the intention to be a Domestic Goddess (NTTAWWT), and never work outside the home. She works hard in school, but always makes sure she is fresh and attractive* at all times for Peter Priesthood, her ideal eternal mate.

At the other end of the spectrum, we have the Sweet Spirit. This is what they (some Mollys) call the uggos and non-conformists that are in YW. You know, the girls who even regardless of strength of testimony or character are unlikely to hook a good Return Missionary. Women who reach 21 or so with Sweet Spirit status and strong testimony are then allowed (I think encouraged may be too strong a word) to go on missions, since it's not like anyone's going to want an old spinster anyway.

AFAIK, I was never called that by any of the girls in my ward, no matter how many times I wore Doc Martens with my chintz dress, covered things in dinosaur print fabric, forgot to demur to boys my age (priesthood holders, the lot of them) or changed goals in my Young Women of Excellence** to fit my intellectual and artistic pursuits. A few Mollys in the stake, however, did.

*But not too attractive, mind you.
**Mormon Boys are encouraged to be involved with Scouting, and achieving Eagle Scout is lauded in Sacrament Meeting. The YWoE program was meant to answer the criticism that the YW program didn't get the kind of goal-making challenges.

#155 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2007, 03:57 PM:

I'm with Debra. "I didn't mean to offend" is sufficient apology unless the offender knew or should have known that the content would be offensive.

In the case of a spelling error...well, good grief. What he meant to say wasn't offensive. This is another level of goof from saying something to which someone takes offense.

That said, personally I tend to think that communicating correctly is my responsibility, and if I spell something wrong and a reader takes offense to what I said, I'm at fault—for poor communicating, not for the offense as such.

But that's me.

#156 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2007, 04:03 PM:

nerdycellist 154: Ah. In a slightly different social context, they would be called "The Plastics."

You never gave in to the temptation to push one of them in front of a bus, apparently. I think that shows great Strength of Character™ on your part.

#157 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2007, 04:04 PM:

Julia Jones: to me this reads like a deliberate attempt to exploit social signals to make them feel like someone with a legitimate claim on my attention, thus making it harder for me to tell them to go away once they get around to telling me what the scam is. And repressed Brit that I am, I *resent* complete strangers behaving as if they've just been introduced to me by a mutual friend/acquaintance, especially when it's clearly an attempt to soften me up for something.

This is exactly the sort of thing that leads to my resentment of the societal norm which pressures us to give our names when asked or be considered rude. Door-to-door salespeople of products or of religions, random gorfs on trains, they are the same in that they ask for ("politely" demand, phrased as a request but without accepting "no" as a valid answer) my name as a handle of control. They want to approximate conventions of familiarity without having earned actual familiarity (a cargo-cult subset?) in order to pressure me into feeling obliged to give them what they want.

In actual fact, the way that a salesperson repeats my name with every sentence of his spiel feels to me exactly like a magic spell, and not a benevolent one either. It's control magic. It's manipulation of will.

So yes, I prefer to be seen as rude than to give in:

"Hello, ma'am, and how are you doing today? My name's X, what's yours?"
"...Cut to the chase. What are you selling?"

Variant, by phone:

"Hello, Mrs. Little, how are you doing today?"
"...It's 'Mrs. LeBoeuf-Little.' What are you selling?" (Generally turns out to be a timeshare scammer. If you don't know how to address this cat, you are obviously not entitled to call her friend.)

(And it's apparent that I need to revisit the "Sky isn't evil" thread. Sorry for disappearing!)


re: Aconite vs PRV in re apologizing: I tend to hear "sorry I offended you" as, depending on context and follow-up, either a sincere apology (for using a mode of communication that unintentionally offended), or for a sign that the apologizer is missing the point (my being offended is merely a secondary effect of the primary mistake, and I'd rather talk about the primary mistake). But worse than either of those is "Sorry you feel offended." Anytime the apology is worded such that the thing apologized for is my action, it's obvious that the apologizer isn't really apologizing. They may sincerely regret my unpleasant feelings (or they may insincerely regret that I'm "determined to be offended"), but they acknowledge no wrong action on their part that led to me being offended. Bleah on them, say I.

#158 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2007, 04:10 PM:

Xopher -

My Strength of Character was aided by the lack of bus transportation in my suburb in keeping my Spirit Sweet. Which is good, because since a good Molly would never curse,I don't think they have a word for a Sweet Spirit gone bad. Sweet Spirit is pretty much the most perjorative term for a female they have in their vocabulary.

#159 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2007, 04:12 PM:

Nicole 157: The fact that my name is Christopher helps me have sales resistance. Salesmen assume that calling me 'Chris' will make me think of them as friends, since they're using a familiar form. Instead, it reminds me with every sentence that they are not my friends, since my friends all know that I am Christopher and never, ever Chris.

I wonder if Patrick (who is never Pat) experiences the same thing?

#160 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2007, 04:34 PM:

Where does "Sweet Spirit" as a perjorative come from, anyway? It seems like a very odd word choice for the sort of personality it's being used to describe.

#161 ::: Tracie ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2007, 04:47 PM:

Xopher #159: Part of my job is to keep all but a select few agents and managers from talking to my boss before they've talked to me and sent us appropriate promotional materials. Telling me they're good friends of "Timothy" (his friends call him Tim) or mispronouncing his hard to pronounce last name never helps their cause.

#162 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2007, 04:53 PM:

#160--I'm interested too--its use as a pejorative makes me hear it in combination with a traditional Southern US damning-with-faint-praise cliche "Bless his/her heart*", so that I come up with something like "She's such a sweet spirit, bless her heart," which amounts to saying there's really nothing else nice I can find to say about the person in question, and I'd never, ever say anything bad, because that would be a Not Nice thing to do.

*variants include little heart, dear little heart, pointed head, little pointed head--with the overt level of sarcasm increasing with each variant. The original term appears almost artless, though, unless you're in on the code.

#163 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2007, 04:55 PM:

nerdycellist, is Sweet Spirit the kiss of death term the way "great personality" was for blind dates in the semi-mythical fifties?

#164 ::: Jennyanydots ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2007, 05:02 PM:

Not just southern US, it's used in the UK too:
"bless his/her [dear] little cotton socks" is the version I'm familiar with.

that and

"pardon my French"

to excuse swearing, two chintzy phrases I'm not a big fan of.

#165 ::: PublicRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2007, 05:06 PM:

Debra @ #132: Thanks! Your comments say what I would have said, only you said it better.

Fragano @ #137: You're welcome.

Fragano @ #141: errr, what's the issue now?

JESR @ #144: great comments, and I agree.

woodyatt @ #146: I see, sorry to put a word in your mouth.

Lee @ #149: Oh, I consider their opinion valid, I am just not much for twisting myself into a pretzel to appease their wounded sensibilities. Especially when the error in question was something as trivial as placing an e on the end of a word that has no e, thus confusing it (in the minds of the offended reader) with an almost identical word. I owned up to the error, apologized, and thanked those who corrected me. I don't think I owe much more than that. Because, as I said, there are some people who seem willing to take offense at anything and everything, no matter how hard to try to avoid it or how innocent the error may have been.

Mikael @ #150: See cellist's excellent rundown on "Molly", in #154

nerdycellist @ #154: LOL!!!!!! You nailed it. Down to the jello salad. I dated a Molly when I was in highschool. Thank the Lord the woman I married was about as far from Molly as you could get. (again: convert; I sometimes think Molly is something that begins very young...)

Xopher @ #155: Thank you! I agree.

#166 ::: PublicRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2007, 05:08 PM:

Rats, my link didn't take.

Ah well, it was a Bloom County cartoon I've loved since I was a boy.

Incidentally, I first became a fan of Bloom Country when I bought "Loose Tails" in (drum roll) 1985!

#167 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2007, 05:25 PM:

I don't think "sweet spirit" started out as a cruel term. I think it was a way of praising women who otherwise met-or-exceeded Mormon standards of spirituality and/or demureness, but who nevertheless posessed some impediment - such as not meeting the physical standards of Worthy mormon men, or having too strong (or any) a personality - to good temple marriage. Its snide usage seems to be a function of youth.

But while adults may be using the term in a non-perjorative way, it maintains its sting; if you are an unmarried woman in the mormon church, you are pitied. Single women are useless to the LDS organization. But, hey - at least they'll be assigned as one of the many wives of a Worthy man in the afterlife, so that they can finally spend eternity birthing babies.

#168 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2007, 05:36 PM:

Debra Doyle #110: Until you said that, I'd been assuming that all of the Mormon missionary anecdotes took place in a different part of the country, because I've never, ever encountered one here in New England. Witnesses all the time, but never Mormons. Weird.

Xopher #156: If Molly Mormons = The Plastics, what do you think the Mormon equivalent of Janis Ian looks like? TNH? (Also: hooray, Mean Girls!)

#169 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2007, 06:28 PM:

nerdycellist #154: constantly demurs to any Mormon male present

forgot to demur to boys my age

What is it with this word "demur" and its orthographic near-relatives? Nothing but trouble all round! In this case, I think we need "defer", since my Random House tells me that "demur" == "make objection to".

#170 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2007, 06:43 PM:

ethan 168: I'm not touching that one.

I did not watch Mean Girls. I found out about it at the unkind hands of a group of young people who called themselves The Plastics, and whose damnation I would pronounce had I the power to pronounce damnation...and the inclination. IOW they deserve it if anyone does.

In my experience, the bad people in movies like that are never punished enough. They get all covered with mud, once, or they don't get the date with the captain of the football team, or they get beaten by the heroine for homecoming queen or whatever. That just shows that the writers have never been subjected to the kind of cruelty these people perpetrate. Carrie, now there's the Mean Girls getting what they deserve...too bad everyone at the prom got the same.

Someone told me I'd like Mean Girls.

"Do they all get their faces burned off with a blowtorch at the end?" I inquired.

"Good grief, no!" my friend replied, shocked.

"Then I won't like it," I calmly stated.

Someone else told me one of them gets hit by a bus.

"Does she live?"

"Well, yeah."

"Well then."

#171 ::: kouredios ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2007, 07:01 PM:

What do Mean Girls and the LDS have in common?

Amanda Seyfried.

#172 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2007, 07:09 PM:

Yes, Xopher, about Carrie vs Mean Girls. I also include Heathers in the Movies About the Teenage Suck Experience that I can tolerate.

Aside from having the dumb and not being able to brain today, here is another theory: that partaking in the sacrament leaves one unable to distinguish between demure->demur->defer.

#173 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2007, 08:24 PM:

Mary Frances (9): The White Horse of Peace and Safety? That's a good one. Thanks for the reference.

Mary Dell (16), I don't understand why non-Mormons get all wrought up about temple garments. What's more to the point is what the wearer believes about them.

PRV (18), I should have known they'd make garments in standard military colors. I'm glad they're more comfortable now. I gather the old heavy one-piece garments were a source of character-building tribulation.

I didn't hear about the white horse either. I can't think that my informants just left it out; it's too memorable for that. I'm betting that the white horse version has come into general circulation since you and I were young.

I first heard the bit about the government requiring a Mark of the Beast identification as a separate non-Mormon urban legend. I think it turns up a number of times in Chick Comics. There may have been some cross-fertilization going on there.

Xopher (20), as PRV explained, some Mormons never take their garments off. This is emphatically not standard practice. It is to mainstream Mormon belief as Mel Gibson's father's faith is to nice liberal Newman Center Catholicism.

Mary Dell (29), PiscusFiche (30), the Word of Wisdom makes perfect sense if you look at it as 19th C. American health-crank dietary advice. That also helps explain the changes. The original prohibition of "strong drink" almost certainly referred to distilled spirits, since Joseph Smith is known to have drunk wine and at one point owned a tavern.

PRV (31): The caffeine wars! What a mess. My mother's been a Diet Coke fiend since the stuff was invented. Not only did my maternal grandparents (who couldn't have been more Mormon) drink colas, but they started every morning with a big strong cup of yerba mate -- a habit my great-uncle imported after serving a mission in Argentina. None of them would have dreamed of touching coffee or tea.

Does anyone still drink Postum?

And #34: it's written on your bones. At least, it's written on my bones, so I have to figure it's ineradicable.

We always thought Utah Mormons were kind of weird.

And #48: it's bad PR, and it sometimes leaves new converts feeling like their fellow Mormons were only interested in them until they got baptized.

And #56: most of those kids are just hapless. One of them came up and started asking me questions about my Spanish-speaking neighbors when I was standing out in front of my building, having a conversation with my landlord. For the record, my landlord emigrated from Ireland as an adult, and has a strong Irish accent. I told the missionary kid that my neighbors have all sorts of ethnic backgrounds -- Nicaraguan on one side, Azerbaijani on the other, etc. etc. etc., and finished up by referring to my landlord's obvious Italian accent. The kid looked amazed: "He's Italian? Really?"

One theory I've heard for sending kids out on missions is that the biggest predictor for whether an individual will stay in the church is the amount of time, effort, and money they've already invested in it. Whether or not a missionary baptizes any gentiles, putting in two years of privation, homesickness, and hard work is a big investment for him. The biggest conversion he makes is his own.

Cynthia (59): I've done that! It's fun. I do warn them about my status at the beginning, but they always ignore it.

MR (78): That seems unsporting. Also shortsighted, since they hate other faiths as well, and one of them might be practiced by a candidate you favor.

Fragano (82): Mormon did the final edit. Moroni was just one of the contributors.

Noelle (91), what Nerdycellist said. If I was obliged to go to one of those dances, I took a book with me.

PRV (94), I'm so glad you had a good time thanks to your ability to make conversation, be polite, and entertain your partners. I grew up with the same batch of Mormon boys and girls, year in and year out, and by the time we were old enough to dance I knew the available boys too well to have many illusions about them.

And #99: you know those trolls who attended dances? They grew up to be missionaries too. I'm not usually unkind to hapless young elders. But know-it-all twenty-year-olds who condescend to me (not very well, but they try hard) in my own house, and tell me that if I don't believe in Mormonism, it's because I haven't tried hard enough? Open season. I figure it's my Christian duty to further their education.

Aconite (128): gently, there. PRV isn't being offensive, and he's clearly not in favor of bigoted religious beliefs or rude missionary behavior.

JESR (144): yes, that's what they've done. I didn't know there was a rule for it.

nerdycellist (154): I was raised in the midst of proto-Mollies. My chief memory is how mercilessly self-righteous some of them could be. What saved me was reflecting that God made me, and he surely knew more about what he wanted me to be than Michelle Carter did.

Xopher (156), the lot I grew up with never walked in front of buses. Believe me, I'd remember.

Fade (160), there's a dialect spoken by church women in which it's impossible to make a formally negative statement about anyone, and yet terrible things can be said. Fidelio (162) is familiar with a closely related dialect, known also to Debra Doyle and Delia Sherman.

#174 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2007, 08:56 PM:

"Does she live?"

"Well, yeah."

"Well then."

Oh, Xopher, will you never learn that a quick death is much too merciful for such as they? Be a cat, toy with your food!

#175 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2007, 09:09 PM:

Well, Bruce, I did think that one particularly reprehensible Plastic (the real kind, not the movie kind) deserved to be horribly disfigured in a car accident, and left unable to move, talk, or communicate in any way; deaf, limbless, and with just one eye...enough to see the mirror I would thoughfully place in front of him, and that he should live in that state for 80 years.

In my more charitable moments I just hoped that he'd die choking on his own vomit (which considering how much nose candy he consumes is far from unlikely). Actually, the world would be a better place, so maybe not such a bad idea, even if it's unsatisfying compared to the scenario outlined above.

#176 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2007, 09:22 PM:

Xopher, you should still see it. It may not exactly be "punishment" that the "bad ones" get, but it's way, way, way more interesting and way, way, way more satisfying, in its way, way, way.

Also: one of the main characters is named Janis Ian. Hilarious!

#177 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2007, 10:01 PM:

"Does anyone still drink Postum?"

My mother used to give that to me when I was a little kid. I never knew it was a Mormon thing growing up. I just knew that we couldn't get it anymore when we moved north from San Diego. I wonder if my local grocery store carries it. I'll find out.

#178 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2007, 10:01 PM:

"Does anyone still drink Postum?"

My mother used to give that to me when I was a little kid. I never knew it was a Mormon thing growing up. I just knew that we couldn't get it anymore when we moved north from San Diego. I wonder if my local grocery store carries it. I'll find out.

#179 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2007, 10:16 PM:

I saw Postum on the shelf a couple of weeks ago.

#180 ::: Scott Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2007, 10:25 PM:

I know I've seen Postum in Wegmans around here, although I can't recall the last time - I'll check Sunday when I do shopping.

#181 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2007, 10:34 PM:

ethan 176: Janis Ian is a really nice person and a really, really good singer. What's funny about naming a character after her I'm sure I don't know.

And thanks, but no. I'll give it a miss. I'm afraid all my enjoyment of such things is ruined by overempathizing with the suffering victims. Hard to enjoy a comedy when you're so suffused with rage that you literally can't hear the dialogue. Also, shouting "Die, you fucking bitch!" in a movie theatre, while not equivalent to shouting "Fire," is disturbing to the other patrons, and likely to get one summarily ejected.

I'm afraid that by the time the wayyy satisfying ending comes I'd have a massive headache accompanied by nausea. Did I mention that I'm still in therapy? My damage isn't ALL healed.

#182 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2007, 10:39 PM:

Well, Xopher, I'll stop bugging you, but I still feel like you might be surprised.

As for Janis Ian, I have no idea why it's funny (I like the lady, too, though I can't vouch for her personally), but it cracks me up. I think maybe it's because I can visualize Tina Fey being like, "Oh, I can't think what to call this character, let's just call her, I don't know, Janis Ian for now, and we can figure out her real name later," and then laughing and laughing and laughing and keeping it.

#183 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2007, 10:54 PM:

The various stories of dealing with door to door missionaries has led me to come up with an Evil Plan.

Let them know that "now is not a good time", but collect their phone numbers. When a decent mix of missionaries of different faiths have been collected, invite them all to dinner at once, and let them loose at each other.

Bonus points if the dinner manages to violate at least one dietary rule for each religion in question.

#184 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2007, 10:55 PM:

Hmm... my Dad drank Postum, but that was because any caffiene at all turned him into Taz.

One of my Uncle Chuck's Mormon wives (not a polygamist: divorced twice and widowed three times) allegedly got some kind of coffee-indulgence since that was the only safe non-alcoholic drink when they were watching electronic intelligence devices at the DMZ.

#185 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2007, 11:09 PM:

woodyatt: I find it amusing that you seem to assume that someone young and religious is automatically in need of "enlightenment", as it were. CHip at #108 seems to share this view.

Be careful about putting words in other people's mouths; it's unsanitary, and can cost you sympathetic readings for your own mistakes. Specifically, I did not say they should be enlightened; I said they should be taught to think, with an example you might have thought to read as "critically, with a particular eye to received teachings." I also did not speak to young religious people in general, but specifically to Mormons, whose doctrine looks like the second-most appalling collection of codswallop that I know more about than I would like. (The first? A hint: don't offer me a personality test.) It is possible that this ranking reflects limits in my experience; life is too short for some experiences.

Xopher@159: I can't speak for Patrick, but I have a similar effect: anyone who addresses me as "Charlie" either comes from the one group that already had a "Chip" in it when I joined (41 years ago), or (much more likely) is pretending to a familiarity they don't have.

ethan@168: I've had 2 sets of Elders on my property inside Boston city limits, and IIRC a squad of them were trying for action outside the Park Square T station. This is all relatively recent, possibly relating to the temple built in a near suburb a few years ago. (They agreed to something less ostentatious than the usual outside, so nobody has seen fit to put "Surrender Dorothy!" on a nearby bridge as they have in DC.)

#186 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2007, 11:25 PM:

CHip #185: Weird. The strangest thing about it is that, not only have I known several different Mormon families in Rhode Island throughout my life, but some of them are actually currently missionaries (though not locally; typically they're more creepily in South America), and never once have I had anyone come to my door. I figured they just didn't do it around here.

#187 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2007, 11:27 PM:

Teresa @ 173: gently, there. PRV isn't being offensive, and he's clearly not in favor of bigoted religious beliefs or rude missionary behavior.

My apologies; I will moderate my tone.

To explain where I'm coming from more gently (and, I hope, more clearly), I am desperately, literally near-tears tired of being told I have to be polite to people who violate my privacy in order to try to sell me a religion that tells me I am defective. (If any of the "spread the word door-to-door" denominations believe homosexuality is just peachy, I am unaware of them.) It doesn't matter how well dressed or well mannered they are at my door; they are promoting a worldview I find offensive at a deep, personal level.

Perhaps someone with a bigger heart and greater soul than mine could find it in themselves to be kind to strangers who are recruiting for a faith that makes my life hell, but I am not so big-hearted or great-souled. Maybe a great strategist could use the opportunity to open a crack in a door in these people that might, some day, lead them to change their minds. I can't. I'm not that skilled, nor that motivated. I'm too tired, hurting too much. I just want them to leave me alone. I'm not a saint, nor an exceptional human being, and it is beyond me to embrace the people who represent one of the institutions that is the cause of my pain and weariness. I don't go to their churches; I wish they would stop coming to my home.

#188 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2007, 11:38 PM:

Aconite @ 187

I think all you should have to say is 'No, thanks'.

Extra points are received for saying it politely when you're tired because it's the fourth time that month, or at the end of a long day, or some other time when you really just want to tell them 'go to h*ll'.

(I worked at a landfill running the scale. At the end of a ten-hour day, it's hard being polite to the clown who shows up literally five minutes before closing time and needs fifteen or twenty to dump his load of stuff. And you have to print two or three reports after he leaves.)

#189 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2007, 11:41 PM:

Lexica @ 152: I'd be happy to discuss that in e-mail, if you like. See below for my address.

Debra Doyle: I seem to have said something that offended you at a level I honestly can't account for when I look over what I have said to you. If you would care to explain the nature of the offense to me in e-mail, so I may understand how I have so upset someone I respect and admire and respond appropriately, I would be grateful.

To get my address, simply unscramble the obvious misspellings in the address I use here (spamtrap is part of the username).

#190 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2007, 11:53 PM:

"I'm sorry, but you come from a church that preaches hate against me and mine. I wouldn't feel safe inviting you into my home, so please go away."

Might do some good.

#191 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2007, 12:06 AM:

Xopher at 190 wrote:

"I'm sorry, but you come from a church that preaches hate against me and mine. I wouldn't feel safe inviting you into my home, so please go away."

I like that, except for the "I'm sorry, but..." You're not sorry that you're protecting yourself from people who openly insult, hate and threaten you. They ought to be sorry for that behavior.

#192 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2007, 12:45 AM:

Hmm. I think the Roman Catholic Church is pretty messed up, too, and teaches some fairly abominable things. Yet I know some very nice Catholics. For that reason, I wouldn't assume that all Mormons hate gays or say terrible things about us (I daresay PRV would not, for one example).

So I AM sorry that my judgement of my personal safety has to err on the side of caution, and tar them, perhaps unjustly, with the brush earned by their Church as a whole.

I avoid Rastafarians, too. I feel somewhat guilty about that, but the stories I've heard are enough to give you nightmares.

#193 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2007, 01:13 AM:

While the average member of a faith may not be deeply concerned with all of the faults of the faith, a missionary is not an average member of the faith.

A missionary is someone who has specifically chosen to identify with the official tenants of the faith, and try to spread them to others. Even if a particular missionary is not deeply attached to the offensive prejudices of their faith, they are still working toward getting others to be closer to the official point of view, which is prejudiced.

In their function as a missionary it is appropriate to treat the missionary as representative of their faith's official position.

A lot of the suggestions for dealing with these people involve shifting blame from them to their target.

They are out trying to convert people to a faith that believes you are evil and which has a hierarchy actively working to oppress you, but you are supposed to say you're sorry when turning them away. They are interrupting your life and work, but you are supposed to say "Thank you, but I'm busy" when trying to fend off their interruption, as if their intrusion was really doing you a favor.

This gives them a false message, a lie. They are doing something that threatens you, but what they are doing is good enough that you are supposed to say that you are sorry when thwarting their efforts to try to do it.

They are intruding and interfering without your permission or consent, but you are supposed to say "thank you" as if they were doing you a favor.

It is one more situation where the target/victim is treated as in the wrong, and the aggressor is given a free pass.

#194 ::: PublicRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2007, 05:21 AM:

Love the sinner, hate the sin.

That was the message I always got.

My religion teaches that the act of homosexuality is a sin.

My religion also teaches that the act of heterosexuality outside of wedlock, or with a third party while violating the bounds of wedlock, is also a sin of perhaps equal or greater magnitude.

My religion teaches that gambling is sinful, too.

Using just these three criteria, and the logic some people seem to be pushing on this thread, that means I automatically "hate" 85% of my friends and relatives??!

Sorry. I know and love way too many people who are a) gay, or b) like to gamble occasionally, or c) have straight sex without being married, for the, "You hate what I do so you must hate who I am!" argument to hold water.

And I even think hate is way too strong a word for me to use against sin.

I am wary of sin. As a sinner, I am intimately familiar with a variety of honey traps which life has placed before me. I am also wary of arguments, most of them self-justifying, which claim that these honey traps are not, in fact, honey traps.

I don't know about other LDS folk, but I had it put to me as a boy and as a man that we are not set in judgment above our fellow humans, and that any pretense to that effect is a damning strike against us.

Obviously lots of us do it, to the shame of the church. Which is why perfection of the saints is a huge job for the LDS church in any period; simply to try and keep the collective fucking-up of the membership down to a low roar.

But then again, there is no shame in judging an action, in and of itself, to be wrong. As humans this is the only way we can attain any grasp on what *IS* right and wrong, for ourselves and our cultures and our institutions.

Jesus, I think, was the all-time master at separation of sinner from sin. Jesus loved all. He did not necessarily love all that they do. In fact, it was quite the contrary.

#195 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2007, 07:42 AM:

#194, PublicRadioVet:

If "love the sinner, hate the sin" leads to trying to make the sin illegal (I don't know if it does in your case), then you're still offering a serious threat.

The damage done by the threat or actuality of legal punishment is a much bigger deal than any love someone might be feeling.

#196 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2007, 08:33 AM:

"Love the sinner, hate the sin" in the case of sexual orientation is nothing more than "God loves you even though you're a defective queer who might be tolerated as long as you're really sorry about it and never express your physical love for another human being."

It doesn't have to be about hatred. Labeling it as a defect is sufficient to do the damage.

I won't let the "but we think all sex outside of marriage is wrong, so it's not like we discriminate" card be played unless the church in question also welcomes, recognizes, and affirms gay marriage.

Their stand on homosexuality is only one of the things I find objectionable about the door-to-door denominations. And I don't want to have to explain this to the people at my door; I don't owe them my time or energy, and I don't want to discuss it with them. I just want them to leave. me. alone.

#197 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2007, 09:14 AM:

Giving someone the label of "sinner" is inherently unloving and insulting. It's telling them that you are better than they are, better able to judge the morality and ethics of their actions, and generally dismissing their interests and preferences without understanding them.

"Love the sinner, hate the sin" may make the people assigning the label of "sinner" feel good, but it makes things worse for the people being labeled, because it keeps those who are mistreating them from seeing the mistreatment.

And when the concept of "love the sinner, hate the sin" is applied on an organizational level, it gets worse. The people in charge feel compelled to do things to decrease the amount of "sin" being committed, all because they love the "sinner" too much to recognize them as fully adult humans with their own judgment.

This harms the "sinner" in very real ways - forcing women to have dangerous illegal abortions, rather than safe legal ones, because abortion is a "sin" and therefore made illegal. Forcing people who love each other to go without the legal benefits of marriage, because their relationship is labeled as "sin." Forcing children to be poorly educated, because they want their faith to be treated as scientifically true, because teaching or believing anything that contradicts their interpretation of their holy book is a "sin."

If the missionary, or the organization they are trying to convert people to, is actively trying to harm the "sinner", saying they "love the sinner" is at best a lie, and at worst a dangerous delusion that keeps them from seeing the harm they are done.

#198 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2007, 09:56 AM:

Aconite, Nancy, Ursula, I agree, by and large. In particular, Ursula 193, I find your arguments compelling; I must think about that.

PRV, I believe that you are what you do, in a moral sense. You can't do bad things without becoming a less good person in the process. If your bad acts weigh more than your good acts, you're a bad person.

People want to think of themselves as good people. People want to associate with other good people. Having a group out there proclaiming that I'm a bad person (indistinguishable, in my view, from saying that I do bad things all the time) harms me. More importantly, it harms young gay people.

If the CJCLDS taught that homosexuality is wrong for Mormons, and kept to themselves (cf. Jewish dietary laws, which according to Judaism do not apply to Gentiles), then it would only be harming young Mormons. That's bad enough, but not strictly my business, except that homo sum: humani nil a me alienum puto, especially where young homos are concerned.

But the CJCLDS also does this missionary thing. So they're sending young people out into the world to try to persuade people that I'm a bad person. That offends me. In fact, I feel a certain obligation to oppose it.

Huh. I think I'm coming to the conclusion that I have a moral obligation to talk to these young missionaries and try to break their faith. I think that would be a good thing to do. Go out shearing, Mormon Church, and come home shorn! Now the young "elders" have a reason to steer clear of me, which they didn't before...all thanks to Making Light.

And by the way, the "we oppose all sex outside of marriage" argument, as Aconite 196 points out, bullshit if marriage is not allowed for gay people.

Imagine this, if you will: let's say the CJCLDS teaches that writing with your left hand is a sin. To protests that this harms left-handed people, you reply that "we oppose right-handed people writing with their left hands too," ignoring the fact that this means that left-handed people have to go without writing to avoid sin—or, of course, they can go through the painful and damaging process of learning to write with their right hands, which causes a plethora of neurological/psychological problems.

#199 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2007, 11:13 AM:

I think there's a misunderstanding of the nature of sin, largely brought about by modern professing Christians who act as if it is possible to be a sinless human.

We are all sinners- prone to anger, pride and at least one other from the menu of seven- and we are loveable and beloved, anyway. People get all tangled up in the lists of specific little sins and miss the big rules: Love one another. Be humble and kind. And don't let your bad habits take over your life.

(Note: there are more abjurations in the Bible to avoid exploitative hetrosexual sex than mentions of homosexual activity, by far).

#200 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2007, 11:35 AM:

PRV @ 194

But then again, there is no shame in judging an action, in and of itself, to be wrong. As humans this is the only way we can attain any grasp on what *IS* right and wrong, for ourselves and our cultures and our institutions.

So someone has the right to think that my actions are wrong (and in this discussion, I believe we're talking about wrong meaning to that someone that it is immoral and forbidden by a Supreme Being). OK, so far. In addition, it sounds like you are saying that these people have the right to insert themselves into my time and space, without my prior knowledge and permission, and tell me that I'm bad because of my actions. And further, you use phrases like "you would do well to" and snarky remarks like "if you or anyone else still feels justified in going on the attack whenever the Elders or Sisters ring the doorbell, I obviously cannot stop you. Maybe you'll be successful in causing one of them to become so disturbed that they fall from their faith."* to make it clear that you think that objecting to impolite and clearly condescending behavior and doing something to shut them up is not acceptable to you, and that you are going to keep telling us this.

Please explain in what way I could not reasonably see what you say as belittling of my right to my own time and life, simply because these missionaries see me as a target for their arguments, arguments which I in no way solicited or had reason to expect.

"Love the sinner, hate the sin" is not a reason for me to accept being harassed and disrespected in my own home or even on my own front step. Youth and inexperience is no excuse for aggressive behavior**. I am extremely upset that you have said several times that you don't agree with proselytizers, and yet you seem to keep finding reasons to excuse what they do, and to find fault in others who do not.

* This sounds more like being mildly contemptuous of the sinner to me.

** Surely you accept that I would be within both my legal and moral rights to defend myself against a 10 year old soldier of the Lord's Resistance Army with reasonable force? Why then should I not be both legally and morally allowed to defend myself with words when attacked with words?

#201 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2007, 11:52 AM:

JESR @ 199

There's nothing inherently wrong with a person publicly stating a belief that some kind of action is wrong. But when a large number of people do so in an organized manner, it's hard to distinguish a church from a political movement, and the power that comes from masses of people can be focused on the "sinner" in ways that are truly uncivilized and immoral.

Here's an analogy: think of it like an internet pileon. Sure all those commenters jumping on the incorrect or immoral post may be right in what they say, but the effect of the jumping results in consequences which may be equally as bad as what the original poster advocated. I call this the "Two mobs don't make a right" principle.

Religious teachings should be concerned with urging the individual to examine and, if necessary, change the way he or she thinks, feels, or acts. It should never be about changing other people. This is one reason why I am not a member of any organized religion, though I am not an atheist: I believe strongly that organization is to religion as meetings are to art.

#202 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2007, 12:05 PM:

Oh, and JESR,

Please don't use phrases like "We are all sinners." I think I know what you mean by that, and I believe there is no reason for me to take offense. But do remember that there are people reading your comments who are not Christians, and who have no reason to love the way they have been treated by Christians who apply their own teachings to everybody indiscriminately.

If you want to say "I and mine are all sinners" I clearly have no quarrel with you, but including me with the (universal) third-person plural is overreaching at best.

#203 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2007, 12:20 PM:

Lee #149: Thanks!

#204 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2007, 12:26 PM:

I had a boss once, a devout Christian, who liked to say "There was only one person in the world who was ever perfect—and they crucified Him." This was her way of answering apologies for screwups, and though I didn't agree with her exactly (my count of perfect people is one less than hers), I loved her for it.

I think we'd agree that no one is perfect, but 'we are all sinners' presupposes the existence of such a thing as sin, which I do not accept thealogically (and no, I did not misspell that).

In my religion there is no sin and no redemption of sin, and while forgiveness is a good human quality and (often but not always) a beneficial act, it is in no way a divine quality. The gods will not forgive you, nor will they punish you. If you want forgiveness you have to seek it from the human people you've wronged, or from yourself. Since humans are, like all things in the real world, imperfect, forgiveness may not always be available: therefore we strive to avoid needing it.

Please note: I am not making these as universal pronouncements; they are just where I'm coming from, by way of explaining how I hear statements like "we are all sinners." The point of view in the previous paragraph is not for everyone, or even for most people; it's just best for me.

#205 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2007, 12:34 PM:

Public Radio Vet #165: Telling adults what they ought to do as if they were wayward children is generally seen as patronising. Telling me that I ought to listen to black people who agree with you is doubly patronising. It's a pretty well-known and very trite variant of the old 'some of my best friends are X' line that's been annoying for a lot longer than I've been alive. I am absolutely certain that you would not dare to say such a thing to my face.

#206 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2007, 12:43 PM:

Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) #202: I concur.

#207 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2007, 12:45 PM:

Bruce, actually, my view that all humans are lazy, prideful, inclined to lust and gluttony and the acquisition of useless items has a lot more to do with being an anthropologist than it does with being a christian; that we can be loved and deserve love, by each other and ourselves, may well be more of what I get from the red letters in the first four books of the New Testament, but it's been reinforced by what I get from reading, say, Stephanie Coontz.

"Sin" was the term in dispute, and I was using it to point out that nobody's perfect, and everybody needs to be cut a lot of slack. Is that an acceptable cross-cultural description? I hope?

#208 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2007, 12:52 PM:

Xopher, I'm actually not even talking about forgiveness, at the big "forgive us our sins" level; forgiveness at the small, daily, not-getting-obsessed-by-other-people's-bad-habits sort, yes but on the whole, what I was trying to get across is the idea that it is wrong to view behaviors one personally doesn't share as ipso facto wrong, bad, and worthy of punishment.

There are some things which are unquestionably destructive of human health and happiness; most of them come down to selfishly assuming one has the right to make choices for other people. I think. Experience has taught me. On the whole. Your mileage may vary, and all.

#209 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2007, 01:09 PM:

JESR @ 207

That's what I took from your original post, which is why I am not offended in any way. I probably agree with you quite a bit, but it can be difficult to determine that without resorting to technical jargon carefully divorced from specific cultural context.

That's really the essence of my warning: words and phrases like "sinner" have a great deal of unhappy resonance for people like me and (IMO, not to put words in his mouth) Xopher. You could look at it as a phrase of art from a particular specialist discipline whose specialist and general meanings seriously interfere with each other in ordinary discourse.

#210 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2007, 01:13 PM:

Bruce, actually, I was mostly working with the vocabulary as it had been used in this thread. Reflexive construction can be hazardous.

Now, for my own sins, I must go to IKEA on a weekend morning. Think well of me if I implode from annoyance in the As-Is area.

#211 ::: Jennyanydots ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2007, 02:27 PM:

Xopher wrote (with an elegant Latin pun which I won't attempt to surpass):

If the CJCLDS taught that homosexuality is wrong for Mormons, and kept to themselves (cf. Jewish dietary laws, which according to Judaism do not apply to Gentiles), then it would only be harming young Mormons. That's bad enough, but not strictly my business, except that homo sum: humani nil a me alienum puto, especially where young homos are concerned.

I was thinking something along the same lines.

I don't understand why PublicRadioVet thinks sin is wrong.
No, seriously. I don't think sin and wrong are the same thing.

Generally, I think you can reasonably clearly state that something is wrong if it harms others, or if it harms yourself: this statement is applicable to everyone.

Is ‘sin’ then the same thing as 'wrong'? In that case, what makes it wrong for Mary and Jane to make love, if it is hurts no-one and indeed contributes to the sum of human happiness? (Note - not saying that all sexual behaviour is right: it seems pretty obvious that cheating on your partner and any form of sexual coercion is wrong). It's pretty offensive to be told you are wrong, harmful, in this sense.

Or is 'sin' not the same as 'wrong'? As in, there are sinful acts which are not wrong in the sense of harmful, but are wrong because religion proscribes them? In which case, I can see why one might want to abstain from acts that one's religion states are sinful, or that you feel spiritually compelled to avoid: this is like keeping kosher, or holding to an oath sworn to the gods, or making a religious vow of chastity: it's an act of spiritual devotion. If so, then you are saying that sinning would be harmful to you, because it's a breach in your integrity, it’s violating the code you feel compelled to follow. I think I can understand that. But why should someone who is not of your religion be concerned with this? They have their own paths to follow and their own integrity to keep. Why are sinful actions 'honey traps', for everyone, not just for your co-religionists, as I assume you mean?

#212 ::: PublicRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2007, 04:53 PM:

Fragano @ #205: actually, Frag, I'd happily say it to your face. Do you seriously pretend that you're the only non-white, non-LDS person who has gotten into it with me about the LDS church and racism?? I didn't just fall off the apple cart, dude. And my point remains. If you think the LDS church is racist in 2007, go talk to an African American in the church and see what they say; because nothing I say as a white man is (clearly) going to change your mind or have any impact.

#213 ::: PublicRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2007, 05:12 PM:

Without embarking upon the same argument seven or eight different times, this is my stance:

1) Even if I think a certain action, like homosexuality, is sinful, I still think people have the right, as Free Agents, to sin. So long as they are not hurting people in the process. So anyone who thinks I want to see sins "outlawed" is barking up the wrong tree. Nothing could be further from the truth. More to the point, the only sexual sins I want outlawed are rape, incest, and pedophilia. And I don't think anyone in their right mind can accuse me of being unreasonable in this.

2) Regarding homosexual marriage, I think the solution lies in getting the state out of the marriage business altogether. The marriage license is just a legal document, after all. Let's take "marriage" off of it and call it a contract of civil union. Everyone gets one: straight, poly, gay, whatever. If you want the legal protection that a current marriage license gives, you go get a civil union drawn up, and you're good. That way gays and polys and everyone enjoys equal protection under the law.

Meanwhile marriage, as an "institution", falls to the churches. Since the anti-gay-marriage argument is that marriage is ordained of God between man and woman, when the state no longer marries, straights in churches where gay marriage is not allowed, no longer can complain. Meanwhile, gays who are part of churches which do have gay marriage, can have their cake and eat it too, and they likewise cannot complain.

The key is, no one church is obligated to acknowledge the marriage of any other church, just as baptisms don't necessarily have to be honored from one church to the next. Also, no one church has any legal leverage against or over any other church, since marriage has ceased to be a legal contract, and is instead a religious rite, plain and simple.

And for all those badgering me over the use of the word "sin", if you think sin, as a concept, is bunk, that's your business. I won't try and argue the point. I stated above I am not much for telling people they cannot do whatever they want, provided they hurt no one. As Free Agents on this earth we all deserve the right of choice, and my belief in the concept of sin does not change or alter this.

Notice, I speak for myself at this stage, not for my church.

#214 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2007, 05:22 PM:

Public Radio Vet #212: wrote: "actually, Frag, I'd happily say it to your face. Do you seriously pretend that you're the only non-white, non-LDS person who has gotten into it with me about the LDS church and racism?? I didn't just fall off the apple cart, dude. And my point remains. If you think the LDS church is racist in 2007, go talk to an African American in the church and see what they say; because nothing I say as a white man is (clearly) going to change your mind or have any impact."

Who's "Frag"? Is he some imaginary interlocutor that you've conjured up? You certainly couldn't be addressing me, whatever your name is.

#215 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2007, 09:03 PM:

PublicRadioVet @ 213: Your discussion about civil unions and marriage neatly sidesteps the point that religions that declare sex outside of marriage unacceptable and do not allow gay marriage do not get to say, "Oh, we don't discriminate against gays--we just don't allow sex outside of marriage," because they are discriminating against gays.

We're not talking about marriage or civil unions in society at large. We're talking about churches and marriage.

#216 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2007, 10:17 PM:

PRV: put up or shut up; let's see the record of you telling your ]chiefs[ to get out of the legal business of bonding couples. They'll probably treat you better than they treated our moderator -- after all, they don't expect you to be subordinate -- but I don't expect you'll get very far. And if you keep on supporting them, \including/ by professing the faith that they rule over -- there's an obvious name for that.

#217 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2007, 10:39 PM:

WE not only get JWs and Mormons, we get "Community of Christ" members (RLDS) and various Black evangelical curch groups of various denomination (I started typing 'demonation' going door-to-door..

Southern ladies (I was brought up in that tradition if not in that region -- all my family hails from Northeastern Oklahoma) can say very scathing things while couching it as "isn't that special!" or "Bless her/his heart!" even when they say something that would, while put in nice words, basically flay the person they're talking about.

I really like the idea of getting all the door-knock prostelyzers together for dinner, but I'd want to do it on neutral ground because I don't want my house to blow up due to critical mass.

#218 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2007, 10:49 PM:

CHip 216: I think that's going a little far. Besides, the separation of church and state is the STATE's responsibility. We need LAW changes to stop religious organizations from solemnizing legal contracts.

#219 ::: Scott Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2007, 10:59 PM:

Chip at 216 -
PRV: put up or shut up; let's see the record of you telling your ]chiefs[ to get out of the legal business of bonding couples. They'll probably treat you better than they treated our moderator -- after all, they don't expect you to be subordinate -- but I don't expect you'll get very far. And if you keep on supporting them, \including/ by professing the faith that they rule over -- there's an obvious name for that.

That would be difficult for him to do. They already aren't in the legal business of bonding couples. They can marry people - but until those people have a marriage certificate from the State, it isn't a legal marriage in the eyes of the law, any more than if a UCC minister in New York marries two lesbians.

Just because a couple doesn't have to go before a justice of the peace and then go before a priest, in two different ceremonies, doesn't mean that the priest is performing a "legal" marriage - it's just that the pro forma paperwork has already been taken care of before the couple says "I do" in a chapel (or, sometimes, immediately after, or isn't needed because of common law marriage status).

#220 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2007, 11:20 PM:

It's one thing for a church/religion to say that non-traditional marriages are Wrong and they won't allow it for their members. (Same goes for other things, also.)

It's their continuing attempts to make everyone else live by their rules that I object to. They need to understand - I don't know how many centuries it will take to get there, but obviously two is not enough - that their control is limited to church property; off church property, it's limited by the extent of control that members will allow.
Any church that claims to speak for non-members is failing to understand this, IMO. (And needs to have the First Amendment explained to them in simple words, too.)

#221 ::: PublicRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2007, 12:02 AM:

CHip @ #216,

As others have pointed out, the marriage certificate I get in the SLC Temple is no more legally binding than a kiddie placemat at T.G.I. Fridays.

Which is why I think we need to get the state out of the business of marrying altogether.

Would my religion punish me if I began pushing for this? I'm not sure how. I'd not telling my church their doctrine is wrong. I'd be lobbying for the state to alter the way in which it labels and dispenses its marriage licenses. In no way would this touch the LDS stance on whether or not homosexuality is a sin, nor its stance that marriage between homosexual couples is not ordained of God.

Again, even if I do not believe in homosexual marriage as a Godly thing, I do believe in equal legal protection under the law for all U.S. citizens, and I also believe in separation of church and state.

#222 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2007, 01:53 AM:

JESR, #199, I don't believe in sin, the same way I don't believe in heaven and hell.

#223 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2007, 02:33 AM:

Bruce, #209: ...a phrase of art from a particular specialist discipline whose specialist and general meanings seriously interfere with each other in ordinary discourse

Such as, for another example, "theory"?

Jennyanydots, #211: I don't think sin and wrong are the same thing.

The assertion that sin = wrong is in fact trivially easy to refute, since it only requires one counterexample to disprove an absolute. Slavery -- which I think everyone here would consider to be a very great wrong indeed -- is not only not considered sinful, but the Bible is full of admonishments to the slaveowner about the proper way to treat his slaves. Ergo sin != wrong, Q.E.D.

It's also easy to prove that sin is not only not equal to wrong, but not even a subset of it; the usual examples put forth here are shaving (for men) and wearing clothing made of blended fabric.

Clearly, sin and wrong are separate sets which overlap only partially; murder, for example, is both wrong and sinful, as is theft. But you can't generalize from those to claim that anything considered sinful is also wrong.

(Sorry, had to let my Inner Math Geek out for a run.)

#224 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2007, 03:01 AM:

Lee #223: Wait, wait, hold on, slow down, I'm having trouble understanding all that. Could you put it in a venn diagram for me?

Just kidding. Although if you did, I'd love it, because they're pretty.

#226 ::: Mikael Johansson ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2007, 07:34 AM:

And of course, I really meant to adress ethan.

#227 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2007, 10:49 AM:

Ooh, yay! Although for a second I misread it and thought that "murder" was the overlap of "slavery" and "shaving," which is pretty hilarious.


#228 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2007, 11:09 AM:

Can I just say that, what with so many people who, when challenged to define their "simple and self-evident" beliefs, can't or won't do so, I appreciate the simple and self-evident Venn diagram provided. Plus as ethan says, they're pretty.

If only all arguments could be illustrated so clearly and elegantly.

#229 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2007, 11:13 AM:

Just to be clear, when I say 'so many people', it's mostly not referring to people at ML, who usually can and will define simple and self-evident ideas. Also complex and esoteric ones, which is where it's most interesting.

#230 ::: Seth Gordon ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2007, 03:55 PM:

Once upon a time in Harvard Square, I saw an evangelical Christian and a Marxist revolutionary preaching their respective gospels on the same corner, within twenty feet of each other.

They both declined my suggestion to try to convert one another.

#231 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2007, 04:30 PM:

Jennyanydots @164:
"bless his/her [dear] little cotton socks" is the version I'm familiar with.

...or, as I say when discussing the three young teenaged Goths who live in my neighbourhood and take the bus with me, "bless their little fishnet tights." And yes, I am being patronising.

#232 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2007, 04:43 PM:

Lee @ 223

Such as, for another example, "theory"?

Yes, though if you're referring to the Evolution argument, I don't think the cause of the debate is a collision of meanings. In my view, the collision of meaning is part of a deliberate strategy of obfuscation carried on by Creationists to bolster a position which can't be justified by any logic I know of.

#233 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2007, 04:43 PM:

abi... You mean that Goth isn't passé? Or is it that those kids don't know that yet?

#234 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2007, 04:51 PM:

Seth Gordon @ 230 They both declined my suggestion to try to convert one another.

They would probably have been hard put to find a common universe in which to attempt the conversion.

#235 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2007, 04:55 PM:

Serge @ 233

Goth will only be passé until they again take up swords and attack Rome.

#236 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2007, 05:01 PM:

Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) #235: Conquering Spain wouldn't count?

#237 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2007, 05:02 PM:

Serge @233:
Goths are alive and well and hanging around the public squares in all of Scotland's major cities. These particular very young ones have deep roots - one of them is a Frank Zappa fan, though her lifespan and his do not look like they overlapped at all.

I have often amused myself, watching their cliques and feuds, by considering how to re-enact Pride and Prejudice in their social milieu. But that, perhaps, is for another thread.

#238 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2007, 05:12 PM:

dear Nightmare Abi, you have plotbunnied me.

Pride and Prejudice among Goths, indeed.

I know exactly who to cast as Mr. Wickham!

#239 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2007, 05:16 PM:

I'd've been a Goth kid if there'd been Goths when I was a kid.

#240 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2007, 05:43 PM:

Rikibeth @238
you have plotbunnied me.

LOLz...It simply struck me that their society is as rigidly defined, and as mannered, as that of Regency England. I am not part of that world, but I know what I see when I watch them socialise.

I know exactly who to cast as Mr. Wickham!

Do tell.

#241 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2007, 05:53 PM:

Goth-society-as-comedy-of-manners: I don't know if it will help, but a friend of mine was threatened with being barred from his university's GothSoc for smiling too much.

Very soon after he was elected club president.

You can't make this stuff up.

#242 ::: Kimiko ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2007, 05:57 PM:

Slavery/Murder/Shaving distinction.
One construction of "sin" is anything that breaks the bond between worshipper (I) and worshipped (Thou). Shaving breaks the bond, because, in this case, He-who-is-worshipped asked people not to. "Not shaving" - a particular, arbitrary bit of compliance - becomes a form of respect for a Person and the relationship with that person. (Similar to my asking you to take off your shoes in my house. Ultimately trivial, but your attitude towards my request would tell me a lot about what you thought of me.)

(I'll note that Jews and Christians have thought for some time that slavery is inconsistent with honoring God and respecting others.)

#243 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2007, 06:19 PM:

Rikibeth... If I may quote abi, do tell, about Mister Wickham. As for Neil's comment, it makes me imagine a Goth con's masquerade beginning with stern words from the emcee, not against flash photography, but against excessive smiling.

#244 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2007, 06:24 PM:

abi @ 240: The Mr. Wickham stand-in is only of local notoriety, so I doubt his name would be useful to you, although I could provide a link to his MySpace if you really want pictures. He looked like a 6'6" version of Robert Smith. With a tongue piercing.

Suffice it to say that he was possessed of engaging manners and superficial charm, but was actively deceitful about many details of his life, and not above dishonorable behavior.

Hm. Opening lines -- "It is a truth universally acknowledged that a gentleman possessed of a popular musical project must be in want of a girlfriend?"

#245 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2007, 06:31 PM:

I find myself thinking of a new version of West Side Story... Set in a modern university, its background would the enmity between the local Goth Society and the Regency Club, an enmity that breaks into knifefights in the middle of a Regency Dance(*) until two young people from the opposite sides fall in love with each other.

(*) Just don't it while Susan is in charge of the dance or she'll give you such a verbal lashing...

#246 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2007, 06:35 PM:

Serge #245: The MIT G&S society did a production of "Patience" last spring where the Aesthetics were all Goths, and the Dragoons were the football team. It was absolutely hysterical!

#247 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2007, 07:04 PM:

Fragano @ 236

Spain is a start, but once you've got it, what do you do with it?

#248 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2007, 07:11 PM:

Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) @ 247: Spain is a start, but once you've got it, what do you do with it?

Sing "Vindaloo" at it, in minor chords and very slowly?

#249 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2007, 08:22 PM:

Could I just eat some instead?

#250 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2007, 08:26 PM:

On the treatment of missionaries of any age or sect:
Anyone who comes to my door to suggest that I ought to adopt their faith is being deliberately offensive. Anyone who is deliberately offensive to me doesn't rate any politeness in return.

On "Molly" Mormons:
It would be an interesting research project to figure out why the Mormon term for an ideal woman suggests that she is either a gay man or a cross-dressing man in blackface. I will try to remember to incorporate this into future interactions with any Mormon missionaries.

#251 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2007, 09:15 PM:

Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) #247: Well, let's see. Cornering the world paella supply would be a start. Not to mention having a monopoly on the coolest hand fans west of China. But the important thing would be the bagpipes. Galician bagpipes, played by Galician gaiteiros. I'd rule the world!

#252 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2007, 09:21 PM:

When anybody comes to our door, it always triggers a 4-canine concert/alert. It's hard to hold a conversation under those circumstances, especially with missionaries. What a shame. That makes it easier to poliely tell them I'm not interested.

#253 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2007, 09:35 PM:

Fragano @ 251: You could also control access to reservations at El Bulli! Just think of the possibilities!

#254 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2007, 09:47 PM:

I think world domination is Fragano's Gaul in life.

#255 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2007, 09:55 PM:

Serge @ 254

Is it a tripartite goal?

#256 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2007, 10:10 PM:

Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) @ 249: Could I just eat some instead?

I don't know. How Goth is that? Can you imagine anyone in The Cure or The Smiths doing that while wearing eyeliner? If not, I think you have to give it up and sing.

#257 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2007, 10:42 PM:

Is it a tripartite goal?

Frankfurters, dill, and a seance?

A weenie, weedy, ouija goal.

#258 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2007, 10:58 PM:

PJ @ 255... Actually, Fragano's Gaul galls me because I too have plans for world domination.

#259 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2007, 10:58 PM:

Xopher, PRV, Scott Taylor: see comment #220. The CJCLDS, like many churches is interfering with attempts to alter the rules of what you say is a purely civil matter(*); do you really think they see/acknowledge it as such? PRV in particular: \you/ may take that attitude towards your license, but I think your chiefs would find a less rigorous position. And if you challenged their interference, I doubt they would treat you generously. I will acknowledge that I have less direct information about this than you do -- but you've displayed such a touching generosity toward the misbehavior of conservative authorities that I consider your assessment at least as biased as my own.
* I'd complain more about the lies they're telling in the process of interference, but the Liar-in-Chief has been so brazen for so long they may think the standard has changed.

#260 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2007, 11:14 PM:

Fragano @ 251

Wait a minute. These are Goths we're talking about. Goths are going to play bagpipes? Or let anyone else play them after invading? Well, maybe if they play dirges.

#261 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2007, 11:14 PM:

A friend of mine who has had exposure to Goths in a serous milieu like the bar scene in some major cities calls the gothie-bees that we see at, for example, the Renaissance Festival, 'sheep in wolves' clothing."

Susan, that sounds like a good idea but I think after my outburst of threatening to call the police that we've been put on the 'do not bother' list by the Mormons. The JWs still visit us regularly--if we don't answer the door they shove a Watchtower between the screen door and main door...

#262 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2007, 11:21 PM:

Serge @ 258

I too have plans for world domination.

I thought it had already dominated you.

Xopher 2 257

Figured we'd be done with the weenie jokes by age 11, but nooooo.

#263 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2007, 11:40 PM:

Oh, come on, Bruce, it was a Latin pun! Don't I get any credit from you people?

#264 ::: Puck Setpop ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2007, 11:42 PM:

Yeah, you people should pay better attention. Xopher's really smart and wonderful and stuff.

#265 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2007, 11:43 PM:

"We are all sinners" is just as bad as "hate the sin, love the sinner" in terms of making those assigning labels feel good about themselves (thinking they're not being prejudiced) while letting them continue to do the harm they are doing. It lets the person assigning a negative label to others not feel bad about doing so, because they've given themselves an ethical band-aid to hide the problem.

"We are all sinners" only means "everyone commits sins as defined by my religion."

It still leaves the basic problem of projecting one's religious rules onto society at large. It includes those who don't share your beliefs in the group of people who are "sinners" by your faith. And since sin is "bad", laws to discourage sin become appropriate if you consider your concept of sin to apply to everyone, not just those who choose to share your faith.

The most that one can say, without doing harm to those who don't share one's beliefs, is "anyone who shares my faith must consider themselves a sinner, according to the rules of my faith."

#266 ::: miriam beetle ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2007, 11:57 PM:


oh, why don't you marry him.

(see how i tied that back in?)

#267 ::: Jennyanydots ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2007, 12:13 AM:

miriam, that really would be an example of the fluorosphere bending back on itself.

(puck's 2nd sentence is right though, IMO)

#268 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2007, 12:25 AM:

Ursula L., no, that's not what I meant, and I feel as if I'm getting kicked around for using a word that had already used in this discussion instead of the ones I prefer: everyone fucks up; everybody's human.

And nobody deserves punishment for having fucked up on the everyday, constant, selfish/lazy/unthinking level where I spend a lot of time, as (apparently) do the people I live with and around. I am not excused, however, from having to be aware of the harm I've done to myself and others, nor do my attempts to do less damage in the future give me the right to assume that other people fuck up because they're not trying. That I am trying to reduce the amount of harm I do doesn't give me a ticket to feel superior to other people with different struggles.

I had a boyfriend once who said he didn't believe in responsibility, to which I retorted that not believing in responsibility is like not believing in gravity. I think what he meant was he didn't believe in blame, and being marked for punishment for acts or states of being. I don't believe in that, either, but I believe that there are kinds of acts, and habits of mind and behavior which accrue bad consequences as a natural and inevitable result of their destructiveness. (To be specific, it doesn't matter whether the people you're attracted to are of the same sex or the other one, but it is destructive to use other people's attraction to you to control, manipulate, or abuse them).

As I said way up there somewhere, my belief that nobody's perfect (where "nobody" equals outside four standard statistical deviations of "most people"), or likely to become so any time soon, has more to do with paying professional attention to how people actually behave than it does to my relatively recent admission that I'm probably a christian.

#269 ::: Owlmirror ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2007, 12:43 AM:


Um, the two of you seem to be arguing past each other. Can we please go back to the Venn diagrams?

Ursula: "sin" is sufficiently fuzzily defined that it can mean something wrong in some particular religion, OR it can mean something which might more generally be called "unethical" or "morally wrong", in the sole sense of harming others or treating them like objects. I think JESR only meant it in the 2nd sense.

JESR: It looks like you were trying to use the word "sin" exclusively in the 2nd sense, but Ursula is upset because of the baggage that the word has of the first sense. Maybe it would help if you clarified what the word "sin" actually means to you.

(I sometimes wonder if all misunderstandings arise from personal definitions of words and the mental baggage attached thereunto.)

#270 ::: Owlmirror ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2007, 12:54 AM:

@#257 That was a lame-ish triumph. Or as that guy Julie "the Big Cheese" might say, "weak-y".

#271 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2007, 02:32 AM:

miriam @ 266

Very nicely done. You want a gold star or a robin redbreast?

Jennyanydots @ 267

(puck's 2nd sentence is right though, IMO)

I think so too, but don't tell him, I don't want him to get a swelled head.

#272 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2007, 02:40 AM:

Xopher, miriam, Jennyanydots, Owlmirror, and anyone else who contributed to the recent insanity,

I have to bag it now; got to get up early tomorrow, but I did want to tell you all that I just had the best laugh I've had in weeks, and my face hurts. Thank you, I love you all.

#273 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2007, 02:58 AM:

Am I being redundant if I point out yet another reason to take great offense at Door-To-Door (or otherwise) Religious Salesman...

...that being, not just the predatory nature of the exercise (thanks, Aconite) but the inherently cultural-genocidal element of proselytization?

(Note to Godwin fans: I am talking not about literal genocide in which people get killed, but the less lethal version in which the culture gets killed but the people keep breathing.)

A necessary side-effect of all non-Xers converting to X Religion is the eradication of all non-X Religions. Which would make all the X-Proselytizers quite happy.

Anyone who comes to my door trying to convert me has marked themselves as quite happy at the prospect of the eradication of my religion. And anyone who would be quite happy at the eradication of my religion, and of the religious culture of which I partake, should be grateful that the worst I tell him or her is "Never darken my doorstep again."

So, yeah. To overuse the Word of the Day, my demurring tends to be incredibly non-demure.

In other news involving less heat under the collar, abi's #79 had me in stitches. I'm waiting for my husband to find a convenient stopping point in his immediately current pursuit so I can read it to him. He will giggle.

#274 ::: miriam beetle ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2007, 03:25 AM:


ooh! a robin redbreast, please. or a cardinal, i haven't seen one of those since i moved out of ohio.

(in our house, the kindergarten cry of "why don't you marry him/her/it" when someone expresses a liking for something, has been thoroughly revived. i was afraid that i did not express my joke well enough for people who don't live with me, & that i needed the prefix "if you love xopher so much....")

#275 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2007, 03:49 AM:

Neil Willcox @241

a friend of mine was threatened with being barred from his university's GothSoc for smiling too much.

I was reading this comment just as the current Irn Bru advert was playing on the TV.

Really, there is nothing more to say.

#276 ::: Mikael Johansson ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2007, 06:35 AM:

Xopher@263: If it is any comfort, the latinate exchange had me fall out of my chair.

Which is a BAD thing, since I'm home from work due to back pains.


#277 ::: Jennifer Barber ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2007, 08:00 AM:

...that being, not just the predatory nature of the exercise (thanks, Aconite) but the inherently cultural-genocidal element of proselytization?

That's the primary reason I loathe the whole "sending missionaries to other parts of the world" concept, but I'd never thought to apply it locally, too. Interesting.

Of course, when someone's trying to convert me, my aversion to being told what I ought to think and why what I do think is Wrong pretty much drowns out any other possible reaction.

#278 ::: Jennyanydots ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2007, 08:09 AM:

Owlmirror @269. Exactly. As usual, it's about words meaning different things to different people.

JESR is using 'sin' only for those actions which fall in the sinful/harmful overlap on the Venn diagram: murder, sexual coercion=sin; shaving, homosexuality= not sin.

PublicRadioVet @194 and 213, who I think introduced the term 'sin' into this thread, used 'sin' to describe everything that falls into the 'sin' part of the Venn diagram: sex before marriage, homosexual sex, gambling=sin. He also described these actions as 'wrong', which was where I started wondering about the difference between sin and wrong.
But, PRV made a distinction between his reaction to actions in the sinful+harmful category (rape, incest, paedophilia=should be stopped) and those in the sinful+not harmful category (homosexual sex=people have the right to do it if they aren't hurting anyone else).

Xopher @ 204 and Marilee @ 222 said that they didn't recognise the concept 'sin' at all, only harmful and beneficial actions.

Does this all make sense?

Bruce @ 272, I am still giggling too.

#279 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2007, 08:11 AM:

JESR @ 268, my post at 265 was mostly a response to PVR at 194. Sorry about the confusion, I should have made that clear.

You can't have sin without sinners. You can't have premarital sex without people who enjoy premarital sex, you can't have homosexuality without homosexuals. The person is what creates the thing that people are calling "sin." To try and separate "sin" and "sinner" is disingenuous. Particularly for something like homosexuality, which is closely tied to personal identity.

The people he talks about there are doing him no harm, yet he talks about being wary, judging their behavior (but not person), their behavior being a "honey-trap" etc.

It's also quite insulting. "Sinner" isn't a worked pulled out when you want to give a complement. It isn't a label being used to show respect. The message with the label "sinner" is "don't trust this person" or "be wary of this person." No one lifts their head with pride to be called a "sinner."

No matter what someone like that feels, what they're doing isn't love. To say "we're all sinners" or "love the sinner" makes them feel good about what they are doing. But the action (including the effect the words have on others) is judgmental, insulting, patronizing, and otherwise incompatible with actual love or caring for the actual person.

#280 ::: PublicRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2007, 08:13 AM:

JESR @ #268: Terrific post!!

Nicole @ #273: So, proselytizing is cultural genocide??? My hyperbole meter just pegged.

Ursula @ #265: JESR already said a lot of what I am thinking. For myself, I think "Everyone is a sinner" is simply Christian talk for the (undeniable truism) that nobody is perfect. Everyone has flaws, shortcomings, makes mistakes, and that all of us have to take responsibility for those flaws and shortcomings and mistakes at some point. That's just part of maturity IMHO, when someone can look at themselves in the mirror, and see the imperfections; and have it not automatically mean they're a terrible person in their own eyes, or go into denial about said imperfections.

#281 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2007, 08:19 AM:

I used to see a bumper sticker around this part of the woods, which read "Christians aren't perfect, just forgiven." It always made me want to shout, "I haven't forgiven you, mate."*

*said with the right intonation, "mate" in this part of the world means about what "pal" does in Glasgow.

#282 ::: PublicRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2007, 08:44 AM:

Ursula @ #268: I'm a little bit mystified as to why the word/concept "sin" threatens you so much. I could understand your attitude if I was coming here saying, "You all are sinners, unlike me..." That's not what I have said at all. As I said in #280, when a Christian says that all are sinners, this is the Christian interpretation of the universal truth that all are flawed. Nobody is perfect. Nobody escapes making mistakes, nor is anyone without some sort of shortcoming. This concept goes hand in hand with humility. We're all human. And humans all have imperfections of one degree or another. Christians included. It's not about judgment, it's about putting a name to the reality of human existence. It might not be the name you'd use in your own life, but it's hardly the dark/scary thing you seem to think it is. That's just my opinion.

And when I apply "Love the sinner, hate the sin" in my own life, it basically boils down to appreciating my fellow human beings and trying to focus on them as kindred travelers in this existence, without necessarily turning a blind eye to some of the things that people do which can be or are harmful, destructive, or otherwise hurtful; either to themselves or to others.

Consider: when I see an alcoholic, I am not thinking I am greater or that he is lesser; but I am witnessing what goes wrong (too often) when people get into the bottle, and I use that as a warning to myself that even people with the best of intentions can't say no to a physical or psychological addiction, once it manifests itself.

Likewise, when I think about STD victims or HIV patients, I am not thinking I am greater or they are lesser, but I am witnessing what can happen when people have unprotected sex, or engage in sexual conduct that a Christian might call "promiscuous", and needlessly expose themselves to infection. Chastity before marriage and monogamy within marriage, two central Christian virtues, seem reaffirmed in light of STD and HIV statistics.

So it's not about looking down my nose at people and wagging my finger. It's about seeing other people live their lives, make mistakes, and using those mistakes as instructive examples so that I don't have to suffer the same fate as the person afflicted.

Again, I do not think this is such an alien concept. I think everybody does this to a certain extent in different ways: observing the errors of the world and trying to glean lessons from the consequences of those errors.

This is what I mean by being wary.

#283 ::: Jennyanydots ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2007, 08:45 AM:

I think my only problem with the 'sinful-but-not-harmful' category (which I don't think is totally idiotic by any means: a lot of people have personal taboos that they apply to their own life without imposing them on others) is when a religion decrees something to be sinful that it is actually damaging to avoid doing.

Extreme example: that horrible woman I read about somewhere who teaches her disciples that eating is impure, and that a truly enlightened and virtuous person can live off yogic breathing exercises alone. She claims not to have eaten since 1980 or something: this can't be true since she's still alive, but some impressionable followers of hers have starved themselves to death.

Another example: there are religious sects who have a prohibition against receiving medical treatment because all healing comes from God. OK, this is not like the above example in that people who teach this idea can practice what they preach, but I just feel disturbed, on a basic level, by the idea that there are people being taught that they have to die in pain rather than accept medical help, even if it’s their choice and not my problem. I find it hard to stay neutral and not proselytise myself in these situations, actually.

Viewing homosexual sex as sinful is somewhat in this category for me: while you won't die from abstaining from sex, someone who is taught that there is no situation in which they can legitimately have a sexual relationship unless they abandon the religious tradition in which they are raised, does suffer. And for all that one says ‘love the sinner, hate the sin’, no-one wants to sin, or to be seen by their peers as a sinner. In practice there is sometimes a kind of social bodge, involving a ‘turn a blind eye’ approach, but it’s still an uncomfortable position to be in, in your own private conscience if nowhere else. And it seems particularly hard when the bad consequences of the prohibition cause suffering to one subset of people within the group but not to another.

By contrast one doesn't have to suffer terribly if one chooses not to gamble or not to have sex outside marriage – though the code 'heterosexual sex outside marriage is sinful' can sometimes cause suffering, especially in a misogynist culture where the blame and shame always falls on the woman (see original post on the 'sky is not evil' thread for distressing examples).

#284 ::: Jennyanydots ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2007, 09:00 AM:

PRV (didn't see your post before I posted):
As a coda to my post above, since you referred to STDs, I truly struggle to understand why some major religions, e.g. the Roman Catholic church, prohibit barrier contraception: it seems like a glaring example of classifying something as sinful that is both harmless and actually harmful *not* to do.

I don't know what the Mormon stance on this issue is, though. Since you mentioned unprotected sex as a behaviour to avoid, I guess that the LDS church don't have this particular prohibition.

#285 ::: Jennifer Barber ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2007, 09:41 AM:

Chastity before marriage and monogamy within marriage, two central Christian virtues, seem reaffirmed in light of STD and HIV statistics.

*blink* Where does marriage come into the equation? If you'd said, "Monogamy seems reaffirmed in light of the statistics", that would be one thing, but marriage is completely irrelevant to your example.

#286 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2007, 09:59 AM:

Rikibeth #253: Now there's a thought!

#287 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2007, 10:02 AM:

Serge #254: I assure you, I'll be on my best Batavia.

#288 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2007, 10:04 AM:

Xopher #257: Shouldn't that be 'weeny, weedy, weaky'?

#289 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2007, 10:11 AM:

Fragano @ 287... Boohiss...

#290 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2007, 10:14 AM:

So, proselytizing is cultural genocide??? My hyperbole meter just pegged.

I think it's a pretty accurate assessment. Think about it in reverse: missionaries whose goal is to eliminate Mormonism because it's a dangerous and heretical bit of superstition and the world would be a better place if all Mormons were converted to (insert sect here) and their traditions and practices eradicated. 'Cause, y'know, it would save their souls and get them to heaven if they could be brought to the one true path.

Wait, didn't Mormons head off to Utah in the first place because of problems like this?

Chastity before marriage and monogamy within marriage, two central Christian virtues, seem reaffirmed in light of STD and HIV statistics

Funny, I always thought that statistically, those were the best argument for exclusive lesbianism and the use of well-tested donors should one want to spawn. Oddly, most schools don't seem to want to teach young girls that the statistically safest way to avoid disease and pregnancy is to only get off with each other or a vibrator. Christian heterosexual propaganda puts women at higher risk.

(Note that I'm not suggesting that FF sex is completely safe. But it does improve your odds on the disease front and it's 100% pregnancy-proof.)

#291 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2007, 10:26 AM:

Susan: your reasoning is epidemiologically unimpeachable. And I suppose the other half of the population just go for long runs and cold showers.

Plus ca change, for some of us.

#292 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2007, 10:26 AM:

Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToGothicManagers) #260: If you look here and scroll down a bit you'll discover that it is possible that the Goths introduced the bagpipe into Spain. Obviously, the bagpipe is the classic Goth instrument.

#293 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2007, 10:33 AM:

Serge #289: I strive to Baetica...

#294 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2007, 10:58 AM:

Nah, the other half can have vibrators, too.

#295 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2007, 11:05 AM:

My god, talk about the Road to the Isles.

The Balearic Isles, that is.

#296 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2007, 11:09 AM:

PRV, #213--
"[...]The marriage license is just a legal document,[...]" Yes, that's why it's called "civil marriage". It's a legal contract--anything else is forbidden by the First Amendment. It's that anti-gay-marriage folks who are trying to turn it into a religious document.

PRV, #194--
"But then again, there is no shame in judging an action, in and of itself, to be wrong. As humans this is the only way we can attain any grasp on what *IS* right and wrong, for ourselves and our cultures and our institutions."

Yet Western religions invariably claim that their institutional goals are god's goals. The claim seems to me hugely arrogant, and it has be buttressed with claims of, literally, magical evidence. Churches would be much easier to get along with if they weren't so damned insistent on not just divine inspiration but perfect divine inspiration.

#297 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2007, 11:11 AM:

Susan @ 290: ::cue Bill and Ted moment:: I am not worthy.

That was entirely worth the sacrifice of a keyboard.

#298 ::: PublicRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2007, 01:51 PM:

Susan @ #290: It's worth noting that if you turn down the LDS missionaries or the JW's at your door, they won't come back with a mob and burn you out and chase you out of town; as happened endlessly to the early Mormons prior to the exodus to Utah.

The missionary's ability to assimilate you ends at your saying, "No thank you, I am not interested."

My hyperbole meter is still pegged. I'll have to take it in to the shop.

#299 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2007, 02:33 PM:

Jennyanydots #211: re Xopher's pun. I agree it's cute wordplay, but it perpetuates a conflation.

"homosexual" isn't latinate, but greek. It means same-sexual, not "man" sexual. The way the latinate homo is used, everyone who is sexual is "homo" as it means human (e.g. Homo sapiens).

PRV wrt to sin/wrong.

The idea that all are flawed is fine, if you don't try to project it to everyone else.

Yes, that sounds odd, but it's a projection. That I believe some, abstract, things to be good, is no sign that it's so. That I do get a whole lot of other people to agree with me doesn't make it any more right.

I happen to think there is nothing sinful in sex. I don't think sex is wrong either. I do think there are ways of treating other people which are wrong. Those ways may also involve sex.

It doesn't make the sex wrong.

I don't see any great benefit to waiting until one is married/committed to an exclusive contract with another person.

I do think taking care, to avoid disease; unwanted pregnancy, etc. is a good idea. It might even be a sin to not do those things; but those are ancillary to the sex.

That's what I think.

I do tell people that I think that way. I'd like them to agree with me.

I don't go/send people around, door to door, to convince them of it. When the conversation goes there, I share my views.

I might go so far as to write of it, publically. In both those cases, the person with whom I am sharing my views has shown some interest (the reader can stop, anytime they like, the conversation was ongoing).

As for cultural genocide, it's exactly what it is. It may take a long time, it may happen mostly overnight. It may do both (viz Mayan culture in Meso-america).

Everyone who prosyltises has good intentions, from the JWs, and Elders, to the White Pride types who rally to protest the co-mingling of races.

None of them is entitled to anything more than I want give them. They are demanding something from me (my precious time). As Heinlien said in "The Notebooks of Lazarus Long", Do not confuse “duty” with what other people expect of you; they are utterly different. Duty is a debt you owe yourself to fulfill obligations you have assumed voluntarily. Paying that debt can entail anytbing from years of patient work to instant willingness to die. Difficult it may be, but the reward is self-respect. But there is no reward at all for doing what other people expect of you, and to do so is not merely difficult, but impossible. It is easier to deal with a footpad than it is with the leech who wants “just a few minutes of your time, please--this won’t take long.” Time is your total capital, and the minutes of your life are painfully few. If you allow yourself to fall into the vice of agreeing to such requests, they quickly snowball to the point where these parasites will use up 100 percent of your time--and squawk for more! So learn to say No--and to be rude about it when necessary. Otherwise you will not have time to carry out your duty, or to do your own work, and certainly no time for love and happiness. The termites will nibble away your life and leave none of it for you. (This rule does not mean that you must not do a favor for a friend, or even a stranger. But let the choice be yours. Don’t do it because it is “expected” of you.).

My time is precious to me, spending it being polite to people who are trying to take it from me, that they might tell me I am, at 40 years of age, foolish, misguided, living my life improperly, and not getting into Paradise (being it the JWs, Hare Krishna, LDS, UCC, tree-trimmers or poltical activists.

Do I go out of my way to be rude? No, but that's not because I feel a duty to be polite, I just find it more pleasant to not be rude, out of hand.

#300 ::: Owlmirror ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2007, 02:39 PM:

The unstated purpose of all proselytizing is to destroy the listeners' reality and replace it with something else. It is taken for granted by the proselytizer that this would be a good thing.

That being said, I think there are some realities - or memetic subrealities - which do need to be destroyed. That is, I think their destruction would be a net benefit for all of humanity.

Of course, I may be taking it for granted that it would be a net benefit. Heh.

#301 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2007, 02:57 PM:

PRV @298: No, the LDS won't come to the door with a mob and burn me out. That's because they don't have the numbers and control of state institutions to get away with it. The stuff I see coming out of the church does not convince me that they would refrain from doing so if they did have the ability to get away with it -- and I consider the sending of missionaries to preach that a particular denomination is the One True Way to be a high risk factor when I assess whether a church will impose its One True Way by force if it thinks it can do so.

This is not a theoretical issue for me. Mobs at the door saying "five minutes before we burn your house" are a first degree of separation experience for some of my ancient-but-still-living relatives. That particular conflict still burns, and houses with it, although these days it's much more blatantly obvious that it's as much about turf war and opportunities to loot as it is about religion. So I'm unimpressed with your suggestion that the LDS are special and only victims of this behaviour and would never indulge in it themselves given an opportunity.

I do not trust the LDS to respect the beliefs of others, because they have repeatedly demonstrated that they do not. It is not just the door-to-door salesmen; it is things like the utter disrepect for others shown by the baptism of the dead of other religions against the express wishes of the families, and against all evidence from the dead's past life as to their preferences. I've seen the excuses, and they don't wash. The excuses all boil down to "we have the one true way, and you should be grateful we're doing this for them."

#302 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2007, 02:58 PM:

PRV @ #298:
Dodging the issue by moaning about historical persecution is still dodging the issue, especially when people who share your nice "christian" values are still beating up and killing queers and uppity women today. The fact that your missionary kids are polite about their desire to wipe out other people's culture and values doesn't make it any less repulsive. You seem strangely reluctant to address that point.

#303 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2007, 03:08 PM:

Well, my head is a little swollen.

PRV 298, Susan neatly refuted your argument that STDs and HIV argue for traditional marriage. That wasn't hyperbole at all. Just because if practiced universally it would leave YOU out in the cold...can you see why I might be less than sympathetic?

Also, have you seen the video where a couple of guys dressed up like missionaries and went around Salt Lake City talking to people about atheism? They were, of course, rejected at every turn, but they were also harrassed and in at least one case caught on tape, physically assaulted.

A good preliminary ethical test: something you're doing probably isn't ethical if you would object to someone doing something appropriately analogous to you. Note that I do not say "the same thing," because e.g. most Mormons wouldn't mind Mormon missionaries coming to the door (mod some irritation if they wouldn't stop after you said "I'm already a Mormon").

So to analyze the ethics of forbidding same-sex marriage, apply the test by considering what would happen if different-sex marriage were forbidden. Ask yourself how your life would be in those circumstances. Of course, most people won't do that; they'll just say "but of course that would be wrong, because I'm normal."

I expect more of you, however. I expect that if you do this little thought-experiment, you will see why same-sex marriage is an important social justice issue.

Terry 299: Well, the beauty of a pun is that you mean both at once. I meant young homo sapiens (Latin), to be sure, but also young homosexuals specifically. And I've remarked before that one reason I love that aphorism is that it begins with 'homo' and ends with 'puto'.

#304 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2007, 03:18 PM:

Terry Karney #299: 'Homosexual' is a Greco-Latin portmanteau (Greek 'homo' + Latin 'sexualis') comparable to 'automobile' (Greek 'auton' + Latin 'mobilis').

#305 ::: Seth Gordon ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2007, 03:42 PM:

PRV @ 298: Yes, back in the 19th century, when non-Mormons had political power in areas containing small Mormon populations, the majority responded with anti-Mormon violence.

But when the tables were turned and the Mormons were the ones with unchallenged political power--as in Nauvoo under Joseph Smith or as in the Utah Territory under Brigham Young--non-Mormons were victims of violence at Mormon hands, as well.

Based on this history, I think it is not unreasonable to fear what would happen in a world where the LDS church once again has, in the words of Julia @ 301, "the numbers and control of state institutions to get away with" mob violence.

#306 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2007, 04:15 PM:

PRV @ 298

The missionary's ability to assimilate you ends at your saying, "No thank you, I am not interested."

Tell that to the Aztecs, the Incas, the Mandan, the Australian aborigines, etc. Missionaries have in the past used violent means to attain their ends; since their ends are primarily spiritual, often the physical existence of their victims is jeopardized.

#307 ::: Owlmirror ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2007, 04:29 PM:

@#304: This made me wonder what the modern Greek word for homosexual is. Fortunately, I could look it up — it is: ομοφυλόφιλος.

That can be broken down:
"ομο" means the same, "homo-" (modern Greek does not use the breathings that the initial "h" derives from in the English prefix)
"φυλό" means "gender" or "type" - think phylum
"φιλος", of course, is equivalent to the suffix "-phile"

Someone else can post what the fully Latin equivalent would be.

#308 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2007, 04:32 PM:

Susan @ #290: Very good.

#309 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2007, 04:40 PM:

In re: cultural genocide, PRV's bringing up the idea of force is a red herring. I wasn't talking about success in reaching the goal, or methods of reaching the goal. I was talking about the goal itself.

The goal of a proselytizing religion is to convert the world to their religion. Period. Regardless of how feasible it is to do that, the best case scenario in the mind of the proselytizer is the eradication of all other religions.

One doesn't have to do anything as extreme send mobs to my door to burn my house down, to get on my permanent bad side. They just have to make it clear that their best case scenario is one in which my religion ceases to exist because everyone practicing it has converted to the proselytizer's religion.

On this level, it doesn't matter that the proselitizer's goal is that everyone convert happily, freely, of their own free will. Yes, I can say no. But the proselytizer would prefer I didn't, doesn't he? The proselytizer still wants, would define his best case scenario as, all non-X religions disappearing. Being eradicated.

Granted, the proselytizer not being willing to use force does reassure me that he or she is not a threat to my life, health, or safety. But they're still not someone who wants my religion to continue to exist. Which means I'm not going to be very fond of them, am I? At the very least I'm going to find the whole exercise intensely distasteful.

I have yet to be approached by a proselyte who would be content with synchretism. They aren't asking me to include Jesus in my personal pantheon. They aren't OK with me mentioning His name when I cast circle. They don't want to see a rosary side by side with an athame. They want me to renounce Wicca and become their flavor of Christian. Sounds like a goal of cultural genocide to me: eradicate a culture from the face of the earth, for all that the people who were of that culture are still breathing.

PRV, if you want me to accept your accusation of hyperbole, tell me how someone can both A) want everyone to convert to their religion, and yet B) not want every other religion to disappear.

#310 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2007, 04:58 PM:

Hah! And another point. Xopher says:

A good preliminary ethical test: something you're doing probably isn't ethical if you would object to someone doing something appropriately analogous to you.
This is important. Also what Aconite said earlier about how it's a double standard to an LDS member "falling from his faith" as tragedy, when in fact the LDS member specifically desires as the outcome of his visits to be that the people he or she visits "fall from their faith."

And here's my specific spin on it. Anyone reading this who belongs to a proselytizing faith and agrees with the tenet about the desirability of proselytizing that faith...

...(no I'm not naming names, I don't presume to know who those people are; for all I know PRV doesn't in fact agree with that tenet, OK? Just, y'know, pretend I'm talking to you, whoever you are, if you fit the description; you don't even have to raise your hand)...

...imagine just for a moment if I came to your door and tried to convince you to convert to Wicca. (I wouldn't, but this is Let's Pretend we're playing here.) Do you think I have the slightest chance of succeeding? Hell, I don't think I have the slightest chance of succeeding. You're sure that your faith is right. You are strong in your faith. Your faith isn't just your faith; it's your identity. You think your faith is so right that you want everyone else to share it! I stand no chance of converting you away.

So what makes you think you'd have any better chance of converting me? I, too, think my faith is right, at least for me. I identify with it. I believe it. And I hope that everyone for whom it is right will come to it eventually. I recognize that it isn't right for everyone, but I insist that for some people it is very right, and that I am one of those people.

A proselytizer at my door is pretty much telling me that not only does he think his religion is better than mine, but also that he things he is more secure in his faith than I am in mine. And he doesn't know a damn thing about me to base that assumption on. All he knows is I'm the person who answered the door when he knocked. And yet he sees fit to make the assumption that my strength of belief is lesser than his.

That's insulting.

Just a wee tidbit of putting oneself in another person's shoes does a world of good, I think. At the very least it can prevent a whole host of thoughtless insults that these sorts of assumptions convey.

#311 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2007, 05:01 PM:

Ursula, #279: You can't have sin without sinners. You can't have premarital sex without people who enjoy premarital sex, you can't have homosexuality without homosexuals. The person is what creates the thing that people are calling "sin." To try and separate "sin" and "sinner" is disingenuous.

Wow. That's going straight into my personal arsenal; I'd never really put that together before.

Thinking ahead (because dealing with Christianists is a lot like playing chess), I would bet that their countermove is to go back to the "we're all children" thing -- after all, parents correct their children for bad behavior, but they still love the child. To which I say that this is unbelievably insulting and patronizing, and anyone who refuses to acknowledge and respect me as an adult is not credible by default... including deities.

Dave, #281: I've begun to think of that bumper sticker as having a much more sinister connotation. It's possible to read it as "I can do whatever I like, because God is on my side now!" -- and I think that's exactly how a lot of the hate-based Christians do read it.

Jennyanydots, #283: religious sects who have a prohibition against receiving medical treatment because all healing comes from God

I have a friend who's dealing with some of that shit in his family. There is very much a dark side to this: if someone you love is sick, and you pray and pray and pray for healing, and they die anyhow, it's your fault because you didn't have enough faith. So in addition to grieving for a loss that may have been totally unnecessary, you get to have your soul torn apart by the very people who should be supporting you.

This comes very close, for me, to looking like a religion which should legitimately be banned -- not because of the actual tenet (because I support the right to choose the manner of one's own death), but because of the way it treats the survivors.

Owlmirror, #300: Yes, there are indeed some memes that need to be destroyed. And One-True-Wayism, about anything that can't be demonstrated with hard evidence (which includes ALL religions), tops the list IMO.

#312 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2007, 05:30 PM:

Not to bandwagon, but...

PRV @283: Consider: when I see an alcoholic, I am not thinking I am greater or that he is lesser; but I am witnessing what goes wrong (too often) when people get into the bottle, and I use that as a warning to myself that even people with the best of intentions can't say no to a physical or psychological addiction, once it manifests itself. (emphasis added)

IMHO this statement's underlying evenhandedness and humility are laudable, certainly more so than the common sanctimony of the self-labelled elect. But the particular phrasing still kinda borrows me, in that it seems to reduce other people's misfortunes/misdeeds into mere object lessons for the benefit of oneself.

I don't think PRV *meant* it that way. But to extrapolate it to logical extremes, it's as if, when seeing a seatbeltless drunk driver lose control of a car and get hurled out through the window on one side while the car crushed some pedestrians on the other, one's only reaction were to be "This is a good reminder to me to never drive drunk and always wear a seatbelt."

Owlmirror @307: ομοφυλόφιλος. That can be broken down: "ομο" means the same, "homo-" (modern Greek does not use the breathings that the initial "h" derives from in the English prefix); "φυλό" means "gender" or "type" - think phylum; "φιλος", of course, is equivalent to the suffix "-phile". Someone else can post what the fully Latin equivalent would be.

"Ipsosexual", I think? I can't recall who made a similar observation about the word "automobile" and demanded its standardization to "ipsomobile" or "autokineticon".

#313 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2007, 05:41 PM:

PublicRadioVet's reponses have been far more civil and cheerful than many of the remarks aimed at him. Could y'all dial it back half a notch?

#314 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2007, 05:47 PM:

Lee 311: It's possible to read it as "I can do whatever I like, because God is on my side now!" -- and I think that's exactly how a lot of the hate-based Christians do read it.

That's how I read it. Why should I trust anyone who believes that they can do any damn thing they want, then just pray for forgiveness? (Or go to confession, or whatever.) Are they constrained by anything in their daily behavior except the threat of punishment?!?!?

No, I don't really believe that about the average Christian-on-the-street. But I keep hearing that same line of bullshit about atheists, or indeed about anyone who doesn't believe in Hell. Maybe they need to be threatened with extinction/separation from God/everlasting torment (each to their own various takes on it) to be good, but we don't.

#315 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2007, 05:48 PM:

Julie L #312: Alfred Bester has a character in his story 'Disappearing Act' tell Henry Ford that what he (i.e., Ford) calls an 'ipsimobile' should be called an 'automobile'.

#316 ::: Jennyanydots ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2007, 06:05 PM:

Some of these issues aren't cheerful, but PublicRadioVet, if I said anything to you that was uncivil, I apologise. It's difficult to have a conversation about religion that deals with the hard issues without turning into a battle of proselytising and counter-proselytising (that's why I usually don't discuss the topic, but for some reason I decided to post here...). I hope I didn't step over the line in expressing my opinions.


Lee, I'm really sorry that your friend is having to deal with that.

I support a person's right to choose the manner of their own death, but this is different. If someone says straight up, don't give me medical treatment I would rather die, that's one thing. But these people don't frame it as choosing death, and as you said a horrid load of blame then goes on the survivors.

I don't know if one can outright ban it, but I hate to see it taught. I would be very glad to see the meme of 'do something utterly counter to common sense in order to test if you're good enough for God to bale you out' die out.

#317 ::: miriam beetle ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2007, 06:12 PM:


i do sympathize with your believing wholeheartedly in a religion that has done your life good, & that also happens to have some teachings that make your life difficult because you can't get behind them (history of racism, prosletysing, maybe you object to the church's homophobia as well, though you haven't said) but the positives still outweigh the negatives for you.

prosletysing is one of the worst things a religion can do for general goodwill among the nations. i mean, everybody gets warm fuzzies about buddhism, but they wouldn't if buddhists kept coming to their door.

i consider myself religious, but pretty much whenever my religious beliefs contradict my humanist beliefs (basic equality & dignity for all people), i find myself going with the humanism. is this a muddle-headed, picking-&-choosing, impossible-to-pass-meaningfully-on-to-children brand of my religion? quite possibly. my mother managed it, but she had a more doctrinaire partner (while i extended my muzzy humanism so far as to choose a partner who doesn't share my faith).

#318 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2007, 06:22 PM:

Nicole @ #309 & #310:

Yeah, what you said.

#319 ::: R Emrys Gordon ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2007, 06:56 PM:

I'm a little nervous coming in late here, since I'm usually a lurker. I will attempt to avoid feeding any of the low-level fires, but I have some strong opinions on the subjects under discussion. (Note to forestall assumptions: I'm a bisexual Jewish Pagan. Now no one has to guess.)

I am somewhat biased, in that I rather wish I got more door-to-door religious peddlars at my house. I enjoy religious argument, and appreciate it when offered provided that those offering accept a polite "no" if I'm busy.

I fail to see how active rudeness--not simply shutting one's door or refusing a conversation, but active psychological attack--gains anything for those who *don't* want to deal with proselytizers. The main effect, especially for those of us from minority religions, seems likely to be convincing the proselytizer that all Pagans/Atheists/Jews/Scientologists really are rude and uncivilized. In my experience, rudeness can be satifying, but rarely actually has better long-term effects than politeness. I agree that proselytizing can be rude and even harmful, but that's no excuse for me being rude and harmful if my actions aren't actually resulting in successful self-defense.

PRV: I've been enjoying your posts, as I don't know much about your religion and enjoy learning. I agree with you that people shouldn't be actively rude to proselytizers.

However... My problem with "all people are sinners" has to do with what you put in the category of sin. I agree that no one's perfect, and don't think it's offensive to say so. However, you've said that homosexuality is a sin. That means you're explicitly saying that my love for my wife (or my acting on my love for my wife) is one of my imperfections. Whereas I happen to think it's one of my few redeeming features.

#320 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2007, 06:57 PM:

I forget what story it was, but I reacall someone telling da Vinci about the "automobile" and him sayig it was insane, because no one would mangle the greek and latin like that.

At which point I thought the word, "autokinetikon" sounded better.

#321 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2007, 07:05 PM:

There is such a thing as effective, non-transgressive prosletysing*. If the person being preached to is looking for religious instruction, then "witnessing" or discussing one's faith with them isn't rude.

A good missionary would be one who looks for questioners, not for people whose beliefs s/he needs to overset to be successful.

* I don't do this. I am not a good target for it. But I recognise the concept.

#322 ::: Owlmirror ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2007, 07:16 PM:

I can has new teleological belief system?

O HAI I upgraded ur religion.
Ur old 1 was lame lol.

sry. lolcats meme has eated my brane.

#323 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2007, 08:12 PM:

I don't mind the guys knocking on my door wanting to tell me about their religion. I tell them no thanks and they go about their business and I go about mine. I recall a stand up comedian who said whenever he got those sorts, he'd put on his best "Reverend Jim" impersonation (a la Christopher Loyd on Taxi) and tell them to "come on in boys", shaky hands, wobbly head, and the whole bit, and then they'd change their mind and leave. I'd love to try it, just to see the response, but I don't think I could keep a straight face. But the potential for having immense fun out of the interaction is there.

#324 ::: vian ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2007, 09:53 PM:

... then there's the recent case of some young door-to-door religious types here. They rocked up to a student household, and were invited in for drinks and fresh, warm cookies.

Yes, those kinds of cookies.

I know, I know. Not funny. Well, not very ... although I'm glad the lads suffered no ill-effects other than getting high for a bit.

#325 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2007, 09:55 PM:

Various Contributors Have Emitted Some Form Of This: My problem with "all people are sinners" has to do with...

There's something tautological about the statement in question. To wit: is the reverse true?

Are all sinners people? If not, then who are these unpersonal sinners? If so, then what useful difference do we see by drawing a distinction between People and Sinners. As Wolfgang Pauli is reported to have said when faced with a similar proposition, "It is not even wrong." You could try to find a person who isn't a sinner to falsify the statement, but the definition of "sinner" seems to have ruled that to be impossible.

Wilbur: "Hey, everybody! Check out my friend Elbert here... he's absolutely, completely without sin! See for yourself!"
Norman: "Gee, Wilbur, it looks like you're right, but isn't that because he's an inhuman, brain-sucking zombie?"
Wilbur: "Naw, Elbert's just like the rest of us. Except he's not a sinner."
Norman: "Far out, man. How'd he do that?"

The "all people are sinners" statement smells like bullshit, i.e. a statement emitted for the purpose of interfering with productive discourse by side-tracking the participants into pointless arguments over trivia. It doesn't even have to be true or false. The objective of bullshit is to make the distinction between truth and falsehood impractical to discuss. Cue George Carlin rant here.

Of course, being that I'm your friendly neighborhood annoying atheist— who isn't sufficiently body-shy for polite company— it shouldn't come as any surprise that I have this reaction to the "everyone is a sinner" statement. We atheists have a long list of annoyingly pedantic objections to religious language in all its common forms, not just this one. Moreover, we're pretty used to having our views disregarded as nothing more than intellectual wankery. In fact, it frequently is intellectual wankery, as I suspect this contribution I'm making now should be categorized.

Maybe that's why the missionaries won't come around to my house anymore. Sigh.

#326 ::: Nancy C ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2007, 10:48 PM:

j h woodyatt,

were you wanking at the missionaries? (Intellectually, of course.)

#327 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2007, 10:53 PM:

Not that time, no... it was just a case of me not having the patience to go through the whole "hold on while I make sure you don't have to see me naked" thing when that horse had already bolted from the barn, as it were.

I probably wouldn't have put clothes on for the postman either.

#328 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2007, 10:59 PM:

PRV, #282, "sin" is a religious word. I don't accept it.

Lee, #311, people in my mother's church told her that she didn't have enough faith in God because she got cancer. When I got sick, I was prepared for this crap from my father & his friends. I *don't* have faith in gods. Didn't have anything to do with breaking my ankle. But Lee, you can't ban that kind of religion. It just makes it a martyr. Let it die of inattention.

#329 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: June 11, 2007, 11:11 PM:

JulieL@312: ips[io]sexual*, like autoerotic**, is more self-involved than our target term. "Pares" carries (I \think/) too precise a meaning ("equal" != "same"), but my Latin studies (being almost 40 years gone) aren't up to suggesting an alternative.

* There's got to be somebody here who can say whether 'i' or 'o' is correct; cf above "ipsimobile" (did Bester know his suffixes?) vs "Quis custodiet ipsos custodes".

** Thank you Brian Aldiss, who used this term in the first page of "Auto-Ancestral Fracture" (later a part of Barefoot in the Head).

#330 ::: Mikael Johansson ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2007, 02:18 AM:

As for inviting missionaries in, one of my friends at the university, who is studying lutheran theology, has great stories to tell about when the LDS or JW missionaries stop by the student dorms filled with theology students.

They are normally cordially invited in for tea and cookies (quite normal this time :) and then the discussion starts.

Apparently more than a few missionaries have left that dorm converted.

#331 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2007, 06:24 AM:

Actually, it's "ipsemobile" with an e, not an i or an o. (ipsos is an accusative form, and these things usually go from the nominative. Masculine nominative, but what can you do about that?)

#332 ::: Seth Gordon ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2007, 09:00 AM:

"Television? The word is half Greek and half Latin. No good will come of it." --C.P. Scott, editor, Manchester Guardian, 1928

#333 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2007, 11:06 AM:

The pair of Bible-toting missionaries who came to my door yesterday were quite willing to leave after my "Sorry, I'm not interested," and a *very* brief conversation that ended with my "Nice day to you too." Of course, the younger of the pair looked to be about 10 years old (12 at most), and the other might have been high school age. Nobody else on my side of the building was home, so they left pretty quickly. Oh, how I would have hated to be forced into such a task when I was a kid! Fortunately, the church I went to as a youngster didn't require it.

#334 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2007, 11:15 AM:

My grandfather once greeted a pair of door-to-door missionaries with (paraphrased), "I can't invite you in right now because we have guests, but if you come back later I'd love to compare notes. I was a missionary myself for twenty years. Here, let me give you a pamphlet I wrote about my experiences in China."

I have no idea if they did in fact return. I also don't know if they ever realized that they had wandered onto the grounds of the American headquarters of the German Lutheran Liebenzell Mission. Maybe the retired missionaries in the next house clued them in.

#335 ::: Michael Bloom ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2007, 12:59 PM:

j h woodyatt @325: Are all sinners people? If not, then who are these unpersonal sinners?


I can't define sin properly, but I tend to assume it has something to do with coercion. Most interactions we have with corporations involve an attempt, by force or guile, to get us to do something we don't want to do. Ergo...

#336 ::: Individ-ewe-al ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2007, 01:13 PM:

miriam at #317 asks: is this a muddle-headed, picking-&-choosing, impossible-to-pass-meaningfully-on-to-children brand of my religion?
No, because if it were impossible to pass on to children, Judaism wouldn't have survived 2000 years plus. I think the religion probably needs a small dose of the more doctrinaire sort too. But values pretty congruent with what is nowadays called "humanism" go pretty deep.

R Emrys Gordon at #319: your introducing yourself as a bisexual Jewish Pagan reminds me of the time at college when my two good girl-friends and I were referred to as "the three bi Jewish witches". Not that any of us were actually Pagan, but H was a goth and I had tendencies that way, and D is a mezzo with dramatic long black hair who tended to get cast as the operatic villainess.

(I have some opinions about the door to door missionaries thing too, but I'm still trying to formulate them.)

#337 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2007, 01:46 PM:

Michael Bloom writes: Corporations. I can't define sin properly [...]

Hmmm. If we can establish that corporations are capable of sin, then we might have an interesting line of inquiry here. I suspect, though, we may have a problem defining our terms... there are an awful lot of people who seem heavily invested in the idea that corporations are persons— with neither the capacity for sin nor the opportunity to be saved by their repentence. The theological aspects of that debate are probably beyond my level of expertise.

The idea does pose an interesting ancillary question: when both my employer and I are dead and we've both gone to our eternal rewards, will I still be bound by my non-disclosure agreements? (I think I better go check that contract language more carefully...)

#338 ::: Lexica ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2007, 02:17 PM:

In my experience, no corporation does anything — "sin" or otherwise — unless a person causes it to do so. A person or people set up the rules by which it operates; a person or people create the standards by which it's judged successful or unsuccessful; a person or people takes the action (or fails to take the action) that causes harm.

"Corporate personhood" is a legal concept (an extremely wrongheaded one, IMO) and not relevant to discussions of moral or ethical behavior.

#339 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2007, 02:58 PM:

Lexica @ 338

Except that often the action taken by an individual within a corporation is based on legal, moral, and ethical considerations relative to the corporation, not the individual. For instance, a corporate officer who believes strongly that ethics requires use of recycling and green technology wherever possible, even at additional economic cost, would be required by fiduciary responsibility under current law to forgo such considerations for the corporation, since the only obligation of an officer is to the stockholders.

The corporation isn't a person in the normal biological, moral, or ethical senses, but it does have an identity, set of values, and legal requirements different from those of the people who work in it.

#340 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2007, 03:05 PM:

Bruce 339: Hmm...the corporation as a kind of mob. Interesting.

#341 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2007, 03:38 PM:

Completely non-related to 1985, I am having a party on the 23rd, in Arcadia, Calif. Any denizens of Making Light who are interested in showing up can drop me a line at terry_dot_karney_at_gmail_dot_com (with the usual subsitutions to make that address work).

#342 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2007, 03:40 PM:

Xopher, #314: Yes, I make that counter-argument whenever I hear someone claiming that there is no morality without Christianity. If the only thing that keeps you doing right is fear of Hell, then you HAVE no morals -- all you have is a big bully standing over you with a stick.

BTW, I found your LJ and friended you.

Emrys, #319: The perceived benefit (at least for me) is that the more people who are actively hostile to proselytizers, the harder it's going to be for the church to find people willing to do it. (The same argument applies to telemarketers, who are the same kind of rude.) Call it "getting the mule's attention."

Marilee, #328: I don't support the banning of any religion. But if I did, that one would be at or near the top of my list.

Hmmm... I suppose that makes me guilty of a wish for cultural xenocide as well. In my defense, I'm not willing to do anything active (no matter how non-violent) to bring it about -- it's just a fantasy ideal.

Michael, #335: The religious definition of "sin" has little if anything to do with coercion, since so much of it involves voluntary and solitary actions. What you're defining there comes closer to "wrong", which has already been shown to be not the same thing as sin.

#343 ::: Seth Gordon ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2007, 03:40 PM:

I heard a lot about "fiduciary responsibilty" from apologists for the multinationals who got into bed with the apartheid-era South African government. I think it's a dodge that corporate directors use to blame someone else for a decision that that they'd rather not be held personally accountable for.

If directors of some corporation had wanted to invest more heavily in green technology, they could have said that the short-term cost of the technology is balanced by the good PR that it generates for the company, or the long-term energy savings they could realize, or the expectation that environmental regulations are going to tighten up and they want to be out in front of any changes, etc.

Human beings sometimes commit sins (however you may define the term) in the name of some larger abstract entity (a joint-stock corporation, a family, a religious community, a social class) that they would never dream of committing for their own personal benefit. It is worthwhile to investigate why such sins are committed and how they can be prevented, but I feel like the "corporate personhood" line of investigation is going in the wrong direction.

#344 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2007, 04:44 PM:

For the record— perhaps in a subtle effort to nudge the discourse back toward the original topic, you be the judge*— I don't dispute that corporations are capable of wrongdoing. The question I was toying with is the one about whether they're capable of sinning. Maybe I'm wrong (sinning) to draw a distinction between wrongdoing and sinning, but if so then it isn't at all clear to me how or why. If corporations can sin, then more questions immediately follow: can they be forgiven? can they repent? can they be saved from eternal damnation? etcetera...

* The original topic is fascinating to me, actually, and I do see a thin (monofilament thin) connection between where the discussion is at this point and where it began. I'll briefly note it here: our Constitution is kinda like a corporate charter... it's interesting and weird when I see what looks like efforts by religious movements to conflate the Church with other forms of corporate organization. The White Horse thing about "Mormons saving the Constitution in the last days," is just weird, and smacks of dominionism, which I thought was not particularly rampant among Mormons. Is that, maybe, changing?

#345 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2007, 05:48 PM:

Seth Gordon @ 343

they could have said that the short-term cost of the technology is balanced by the good PR that it generates for the company,

Yes, they could, and often could have gotten away with it (that's becoming more common these days). But in some fraction of the cases, there would be a stockholder's suit and the officer would be accused of lack of fiduciary responsibility, and, by the letter of the law, would be guilty of it.

Not that I think this is a good thing. It's another symptom of the lack of balance in the so-called free-market system we have in the US.

#346 ::: Owlmirror ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2007, 06:22 PM:

There's a quote that's been brought to mind by the recent discussion. In Terry Pratchett's Carpe Jugulum, Granny Weatherwax is having a conversation with an Omnian priest, and the subject of sin comes up. And she tells him:

  "And sin, young man, is when you treat people as things. Including yourself. That's what sin is."

I'm kinda thinking that Pratchett was perhaps using Granny Weatherwax to reframe the concept of sin as only referring to wrongdoing against people, as a humanist redefinition of the term. Who knows, perhaps the idea will spread.

But here and now, "sin" is still used to mean "things that a belief system says are wrong, regardless of whether it harms anyone". So unless it's specifically defined as above, it ought to be avoided in discussions of public discourse and behaviour.

#347 ::: R Emrys Gordon ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2007, 06:24 PM:

Lee @ 342: The proselytizers are proselytizing because they believe they are saving their own and/or other people's souls. If I thought a certain action on my part would prevent someone else from being tortured for eternity, rudeness wouldn't stop me. If I thought a certain action on my part would prevent someone else from being tortured for five minutes, rudeness wouldn't stop me.

Also, people raised in fanatical religions *expect* "sinners" to be rude and unpleasant. Fulfilling those expectations just reinforces their paradigm.

As for telemarketers, I've known a few. In every case, they took the job because it was the only one they could get. As above, if a certain action allowed me to feed my kids, rudeness wouldn't stop me.

I *do* tell telemarketers, politely, that I never buy from someone who contacts me first. I hope in vain that eventually, enough people will follow this policy that phone-to-phone sales will stop being lucrative. Other things I have done, also politely, are claim to be a business, and attempt to sell my phone service to phone service salespeople.

#348 ::: Owlmirror ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2007, 07:09 PM:

And that's another Granny Weatherwax quote I'm reminded of; a bit longer though:

  Now if I'd seen him, really there, really alive, it'd be in me like a fever. If I thought there was some god who really did care two hoots about people, who watched 'em like a father and cared for 'em like a mother . . . well, you wouldn't catch me sayin' things like "There are two sides to every question," and "We must respect other people's beliefs." You wouldn't find me just being gen'rally nice in the hope that it'd all turn out right in the end, not if that flame was burning in me like an unforgivin' sword. And I did say burnin', Mister Oats, 'cos that's what it'd be. You say that you people don't burn folk and sacrifice people any more, but that's what true faith would mean, y'see? Sacrificin' your own life, one day at a time, to the flame, declarin' the truth of it, workin' for it, breathin' the soul of it. That's religion. Anything else is just . . . is just bein' nice. And a way of keepin' in touch with the neighbours.'
#349 ::: Clark E. Myers ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2007, 07:24 PM:

Fuel for flames and also an interesting commentary on dealing with missionary efforts as Soulforce visited BYU-I

Scroll: Should students try to engage in discussion with Soulforce for the sake of being missionaries?

BYU-I: Students should understand Soulforce has made it clear through its visits to other campuses that its primary goal is to generate media attention - not to engage in any kind of discourse.

As was mentioned before, the university does not allow the campus to be used by outside entities as public forum to further their agendas. Therefore, students are asked to avoid any kind of confrontation or debate with the group.

Students are encouraged, however, to use good judgment and exemplify the Honor Code by being courteous toward and considerate of Soulforce members. emphasis added

#350 ::: Jennyanydots ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2007, 07:38 PM:

#Owlmirror @ #349
good quote, hair on end. But that's only one sort of religion: only one sort of passionate religion, even, I think.

In the past I have encountered Christian evangelists who harrassed my more moderate Christian friends by informing them that they were not real Christians, and that they were sinning by being friends with me without attempting to convert me.

Trying to convert me, personally, I don't so much mind, but don't go around hurting my friends and my friendships.

I've also met fairly hard-core Christians who surprised me by *not* using their friendship with me as a conversion attempt; made me feel rather ashamed when I realised how much I had misjudged and mistrusted them based on my previous bad experiences.

#351 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2007, 08:59 PM:

abi, what you describe as "non-trangressive proselytization" is something even *I* could be said to be "guilty" of. I mean, if someone asks me about my religion, I do answer them. Of course, my intent is to give them good, clear information so that they can decide what they're gonna decide with a full deck and a clear conscience. I'm not hoping one way or another for an outcome. But still, proselytizing to questioners only isn't what I had come to know as proselytizing.

For all my ire against the exercise, I've only really come up against it twice or so. The story involving the Bible Baptist field trip to the S. Carrollton Burger King I happened to be eating at that day I've probably told already; that's the one where he gave me a pamphlet called "What To Do In Case You Miss The Rapture," which should probably be transcribed into the comments of a handy Slacktivist thread. There was also a conversation about fear of God that ended in a way I founded perversely satisfying.

The only other time I can think of was when I was home on break from college and two people came knocking at the door asking me what the religious persuasion of the folks living here were. I said, "Well, I'm Wiccan, my parents are Catholic, and none of us are looking to alter that at the moment. If that changes, we'll call you."

...huh. The precise level of confusion that statement may have caused is reminding me strongly of the summer of 2001, I think it was, when my husband was about to go away for a year to join an ex-coworker in an attempt to start a software company. I was fairly bitter at the time because of the miscommunication originally surrounding the proposal, though on principle I wasn't opposed. But that summer, about a week before he took off, I got a telemarketer or more likely scammer calling to tell me, "Mrs. Little? You and your family may have just won a Las Vegas vacation!" My response was, "You picked a really bad time. My husband's moving there this week and I have no intention of going."

Poor guy probably thought he stumbled across a divorce in process.

#352 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2007, 09:04 PM:

Owlmirror @ 349: I've had that passage stuck in my head since I first read it. I always thought it was much more about Granny Weatherwax than about religion: that is the way Granny approaches anything of importance to her. And she is self-aware enough to know that, and that by telling the young priest what the world would be like if he succeeded in firing up those souls he's after--that a certain number of them would burn in just that way--she's giving him a "be careful what you wish for" warning.

As for religion, when Granny Weatherwax asks Tiffany Aching if Granny Aching went around doing good things for people, Tiffany replies that no, she made them do good things for one another, and Granny Weatherwax says admiringly that few witches are skillful enough to do that. So it would seem that Granny Weatherwax's idea of religion involves belief more than action. She doesn't do what she does for a god's sake; therefore, it's not religion.

#353 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2007, 09:33 PM:

Jenny @ #350:

This whole thread's been making me think of "Go Away Godboy", which isn't actually about proselytizing but fits in some ways and has a nice punk sound and attitude to spare:

My made-up mind was not put here for you to change
You think that I am your lost cause, so beautiful and strange
Minding my own business ‘til you criticized my friends
It’s on now, time to go now. Let the heresy begin.

Go away god boy, your gospel doesn’t work on me
You’re pestering a goddess, here, I was blind, but now I see

and of course:

Thanks for the invitation, but I’ve already thought this through
If I’m not one of the chosen then I won’t have to put up with you.

#354 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2007, 09:44 PM:

Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little writes: ...For all my ire against the exercise, I've only really come up against it twice or so...

Yes, well— as I mentioned earlier, my principle complaint about missionaries revolves around how they choose their subjects and what they regard as the appropriate time and place to engage in proselytization.

I once had to share a largish cubicle with my immediate supervisor, who was LDS, and who, when he finally badgered me into admitting I was a fifth-generation atheist, proceeded to make the next eight months of sharing a workspace with him into one long exercise in remedial apologetics. I regarded this experience as well below average, but not quite intolerable.

After the fifth or sixth week, it started to be almost comical. I never moved any closer to converting to LDS while he worked on me, and I suspect he had never encountered anyone with whom his religious indoctrination gave him almost zero purchase with which to make a persuasive argument. I mean, zero. It was clear that all the usual tools in his rhetorical bag of tricks were completely ineffective for the task he had set down for himself. He managed his frustration with that well enough, I guess, but I thought he could have given up on me sooner than he did.

I wonder whatever happened to him.

#355 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2007, 01:13 AM:

Emrys, #347: Yes, I've heard both of those apologia before, and neither of them holds water for so much as an instant.

In the case of proselytizers, they are using an IMAGINARY scenario to justify REAL-LIFE harassment. The "eternal torture from which they are saving me" exists only in their heads; this does not constitute a reason for them to come around and be rude to me in person. And y'know... I don't really care whether they think "all sinners are rude" or not, as long as they LEAVE ME ALONE. Any perceived "obligation" to be polite to people like that got worn off me at least 20 years ago. (Note also that I do have a "No Soliciting" sign on my door, which is a very clear statement that they are NOT welcome -- and which they routinely ignore.)

In the case of the telemarketers, I've heard the exact same argument advanced to defend drug dealers, con men, and other equally-disreputable pursuits. There are (at least right now, until the Bushites finish dismantling the structures of social assistance) other options available to someone who is truly desperate. You don't have to take the dishonorable coin. Hell, begging on the street would be more honorable than being a telemarketer.

#356 ::: Mikael Johansson ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2007, 09:44 AM:

Jennyanydots @ #350

That was pretty much the sentiment that had me leave the swedish young teetotaller movement within a few months of joining it, way back when.

Since I was still pal with my drinking friends, I obviously wasn't truly dedicated to the movement.

I chose my friends before the frothy fanaticism.

#357 ::: PublicRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2007, 11:52 AM:

James @ #313: Thanks! I've been deliberately trying to keep my responses up-beat, if only because I doubt anyone would be swayed by anger; and in any case, this subject is not worth me pitching a fit over.


Based on what I've read since the weekend, seems people have a range of opinions on proselytizing, almost all of them negative. I can only hope, for the sake of any young LDS folk visiting any of your doors in the near future, that some of you are nicer in person than you are on paper.

Lee @ #355: I worked telemarketing for about 3 months when I was a temp in 1993. Absolutely, one of the worst jobs I ever had, in terms of feeling like I was doing something worthwhile. Sold long distance. Sucked at it. Had no heart for it. I won't say it's worse than panhandling, because you're at least tendering work for your paycheck; thus the paycheck is honest. But it absolutely ranks at or near the bottom of the barrel in my 17 year work history.

As I stated way up in this thread, our society in the U.S. has largely become a, "I will seek it out when I think I need it!" society. We dislike very much being bothered by anyone trying to peddle us something on our time.

In a certain sense, I wonder if we're becoming a post-commercial society, in that I personally don't watch TV anymore, don't pay attention to billboards or the inserts in newspapers, etc. Heck, I can't remember the last time I went and purchased anything based on a commercial or advertisement of any sort.

I certainly never bought anything being sold to me door-to-door. Well, save for scout cookies or chocolate bard. Hard to turn down a kid. Especially when it's sweets and junk food. Who among us can't take a little time out for sweets and junk food being brought right to our door?


#358 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2007, 12:45 PM:

PRV @ 357: I won't say it's worse than panhandling, because you're at least tendering work for your paycheck; thus the paycheck is honest.

I would still say that panhandling is more honest, because while both involve receiving money in exchange for pestering people without their permission, at least in the case of panhandling you're not invading their homes to do so. You're getting money for doing something annoying and useless either way; it just happens to be coming from a corporation dedicated to harassing people, rather than directly from the people harassed, if you're a telemarketer.

Standing by the side of the road in the hot sun waving a sign and asking people for change is just as much "work" as sitting in a cubicle calling people up and reading them a script, and the former has the benefit of reminding people of social and economic inequalities. Which the latter does not.

But on the brighter side, at least telemarketers are real live people calling random phone numbers to harass people in their homes! It's still a step up from the automated phone spam I get on occasion.

(And in case it's not clear: I don't mean this as an attack on you because of the jobs you've held in the past. I've certainly done things I'm ashamed of to. I simply disagree that telemarketing is more "honest" than panhandling.)

#359 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2007, 01:24 PM:

Jumping back to a slightly different part of the conversation braid, I gotta say that the bit from PiscusFiche in #51 about "My brother paid for his mission by selling hoar-frost cloaks on his old Asheron's Call account, btw." is one of the more scientifictional things I've read in comments anywhere lately.

I mean, really, it makes my mind go wubba-wubba.

#360 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2007, 01:40 PM:

PRV #357: Who among us can't take a little time out for sweets and junk food being brought right to our door?

You've just given me a mad thought: why not sell the latest SFF door-to-door? Sometimes I could really use a reading break ...

ObOnTopic: I was doing some fairly urgent stuff on the phone this morning with my spouse, when the doorbell rang. Because we've ordered some stuff recently, I answered it, only to discover a proselytizer of some never-discovered flavor or other. She started to whip out her tract, I said very firmly, "I'm sorry, I don't do religion", she wished me a nice day, I closed the door and picked the phone back up from the table next the door, only to hear spouse exploding in laughter. "Why didn't you tell her to go to hell?" he said between chortles.

#361 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2007, 02:57 PM:

PRV, #357: As I stated way up in this thread, our society in the U.S. has largely become a, "I will seek it out when I think I need it!" society. We dislike very much being bothered by anyone trying to peddle us something on our time.

Yes, very much so -- but the structures of marketing haven't yet caught up to that. And yes, I do include proselytization under the umbrella of "marketing".

In addition, I think the onslaught of spam* has hypersensitized a lot of people to the very idea of people invading their space to try to hard-sell them something.

Who among us can't take a little time out for sweets and junk food being brought right to our door?

Well... I personally prefer to get my Thin Mints either from someone I know, or from a table at the grocery store or mall. And I simply won't buy the chocolate that most groups sell for fund-raisers, because it's AWFUL. However, if I think the cause is worthy, I'll give the kid the price of a bar anyhow, and just not take one.

* Not just e-mail spam, but junk-mail spam, phone spam (aka telemarketing), door spam (both flyers and salesmen), and street spam (those unsightly forests of signs on sticks at every street corner). You can't get away from it, which makes it all the more annoying.

#362 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2007, 03:06 PM:

I tried telemarketing once.

I was 18, desperate for work, and they hired me right away. After about 2 1/2 hours I couldn't stomach it anymore (this was for time-share pitches, offering prizes to hear them, but the odds of winning anything other than a bilky sort of trip to Vegas), I went to my boss and told him why I was quitting.

Showing that he had less grasp of human nature than he thought, he tried to shame me back to the phones (I was actually doing fairly well, as I'd generated three leads), by saying, "Don't give me that [about feeling I was cheating people] shit, you can't bullshit a bullshitter."

He looked a little lost as I collected my knapsack and walked out the door.

I felt like shit. I'd just quit a job, and for what? It was, after all, legal work. They weren't lying, directly, just making it seem everyone was going to win the cruise; which only suckers would really believe, right?

So I pulled out my harmonica (these days I carry a pennywhistle) and started to noodle. Some little while later I noticed that, for all I was beating myself up, the music was joyful and chipper.

Never again. Better to panhandle. The money is fairly gotten, I don't have to lie (even by implication) and my self-respect isn't affected by the sense that I'm playing the con-man.

Are there telemarketing jobs which are honest? Maybe, but I've not had any call me (to be fair, I've never gotten any for phone-service).

#363 ::: R Emrys Gordon ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2007, 03:40 PM:

Lee @ 355: You misunderstand me. I'm not apologizing for either activity--I'm pointing out that rudeness is unlikely to have the desired effect of getting them to leave you alone. In the case of the proselytizers, it may have the opposite effect, since it reinforces their paradigm. And their paradigm includes the idea that continuing to bug you may convince you to convert.

Rudeness is satisfying in the moment, but I've never seen any evidence that it's effective under most circumstances.

PRV @ 357: I agree that there's a Girl Scout Cookie Exception. In my case, there's also a Mow Your Lawn For Cheap Exception.

As for the post-commercial society, I live in hope. But at the moment, I'm told that even spam is financially worthwhile.

I won't make any arguments for telemarketing versus panhandling, aside from that telemarketing is safer and that may be important to people with families. I will make an argument for both telemarketing and panhandling as better choices than dealing drugs, conning little old ladies, designing tobacco ads or lying to people about your reasons for starting wars. There's a hierarchy of harm in choices of possible occupation.

Here in Chicago, both salespeople and panhandlers have found a whole new way of being intrusive--they wander around at intersections blocking traffic. Much as I hate telemarketing, I really wish they'd call me at dinner, which at least wouldn't risk an accident every time the light changed.

#364 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2007, 03:44 PM:

I wound up at a telemarketing job accidentally when a friend tried to help me during a brief period of unemployment. It was for some ridiculous dating agency. She did really well because she had a) a cute, bubbly voice, and men were happy to talk to her and even sign up for the service just to keep her on the phone and b) she had no compunctions about telemarketing.

On the other hand, once I realized what was going on (i.e., the second phone call) I pretty much just tried to look busy when the supervisors were prowling around. I left at my lunch break.

As a mormon, I was never comfortable with missionary work. I knew we were all supposed to bring someone new to church, but the furthest I got was handing a hymnbook with my teeth-achingly earnest testimony at a guy I had a huge crush on who was moving. I regretted it almost as soon as I did it. Despite being some flavor of evangelical, he was gracious enough not to get into any kind of "My God Is Better Than Yours" argument with me.

#365 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2007, 04:35 PM:

R. Emrys Gordon @363: Be careful what you wish for. I live in the Chicago area, too, and lately we've been getting panhandlers at the door. Generally more unnerving than either the salespeople or most of the missionaries, in my opinion, because at least both of those types tend to come during the day; the panhandlers have shown up around 10 or 11 at night.

Not that you wished for panhandlers at night--but I'd really rather face them at intersections, annoying and potentially dangerous as that is . . .

#366 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2007, 08:12 PM:

The world has changed so much. Back in my day (we had to pound our own oxygen and hydrogen atoms together for water back then), we Girl Scouts weren't after anyone's immortal souls, and we greedy little squirts didn't give a damn about anyone's ideology, bedpartners, or religion or lack thereof, no siree. And we didn't want everyone in the world to become a Girl Scout--who would we sell the damned cookies to then?! We just hoped with all the will in our really-want-to-go-to-summer-camp little hearts that people would stop by the booth and drop a couple of bucks for a box of Thin Mints.

Now you hear all these stories about roaming bands of Girls Scouts holding people down and sewing merit badge sashes to their clothing. And it's not just in the cities anymore. Little girls in elementary school out in rural Idaho, even, are wearing shoelaces that identify them as Brownies. The cookies are just a gateway drug now. It all used to be so innocently capitalistic.

I'm going to go play with my fossil collection and feel nostalgic.

#367 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2007, 08:47 PM:

#365 ::: Mary Frances wrote:
Not that you wished for panhandlers at night--but I'd really rather face them at intersections, annoying and potentially dangerous as that is . . .

Yes... we had one come by the door around 2am, and unfortunately I wasn't the one who got the door.

#368 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2007, 08:55 PM:

Aconite @ 366: "Stop by the booth? Stop by the booth? Why, you pipsqueak, you! In my day we didn't have the luxury of a booth. We had to go door to door with cases of cookies, 12 boxes to a case, and we couldn't go back for more Thin Mints until we'd sold all the Shortbreads! (mutter, mutter, aged grumble--kids these days . . .)

#369 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2007, 09:01 PM:

Mary Frances @ 368: I am but an egg. I had heard rumors, whispered late at night from the bunkbeds as we lay, nervously attempting to digest an overabundance of s'mores without venturing out into the mosquito pit that was the latrine, of The Boothless Ones, but I thought them a myth. I am all contrition to have doubted.

#370 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2007, 09:02 PM:

PRV, #357, we're on electrons here. And what's chocolate bard?

#371 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2007, 10:05 PM:

PublicRadioVet @357: I certainly never bought anything being sold to me door-to-door. Well, save for scout cookies or chocolate bar. Hard to turn down a kid.

I pre-paid for an order of cookies from a lady sheparding her young (5 year old?) daughter (and prompting her dialog) who was carrying a catalog of Girl Scout cookies. Implied promise of cookies.

On another occasion I gave $10 to a guy (who came up to my door) with an empty gas cannister and a story of children who were stranded in a car on the Expressway. Promises to repay.

I ended up giving $20 around Christmas time one year to a guy (riding a bike, who stopped me while riding a bike) who had a similar story to tell of a child stuck in his non-functional vehicle. Promises to repay.

Each time, I knew better (the Girl Scouts don't take money in advance), and each time, I knew I was an idiot certain within less than a minute (and was not proven wrong).

I blame science fiction.

This 'willing suspension of disbelief' for the sake of the story is all well and good, but it has real world consequences (especially for the weak-minded)...

I hope this post doesn't get me on every sucker list in creation...

#372 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2007, 10:11 PM:

David Goldfarb @ 331: Are you sure? The nominative is usually the irregular form (hence the custom of specifying nouns in nominative and genitive -- at least when I was studying Latin), so words can be derived from any \other/ case; I don't know for sure that this applies to prefixes.

#373 ::: vian ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2007, 10:34 PM:

I have a naughty streak a mile wide when people give me sob stories about needing food or transport money. I offer to buy them food, or I tell them they can have my train ticket. On one memorable night, after the third person in a row gave me the "need money to get home" story, I turned to my husband and said "hey, aren't we staying out that way? We can give you a lift ... "

And we would have. But he disappeared pretty quickly.

#374 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2007, 11:05 PM:

On giving people money:

Sometimes I do. Usually, in fact, I have one pocket where I set aside a certain amount, and when it's gone, it's gone. But the one I am thinking of was a special case. I was at the bus station one day, and a man who looked worried asked me, very politely, if I knew where a certain address was. He had just asked a man who has been a little brusque to him, kind of rude, I thought, and he seemed pretty hesitant to approach me, but it turned out he needed to get to this particular place soon, and he needed to know how to get there.

Turned out I knew where it was, and how he could get there faster than by the bus route combination he was about to take. It was an immigration office of some sort, a paperwork place of the official sort. I don't remember what I asked him that made the story come out, but... it turned out he needed to get there to get replacements for the papers that allowed him to stay in the country. His papers had been taken the week before when he was beaten and robbed.

I suddenly recognized a little more about what I had been interpreting as his hesitance. The guy was in pain. He definitely had been beaten up.

I had some money I had been intending to spend on some new clothes I wanted it. It was fifty bucks. It didn't break me to give it, but I did put off some stuff for a couple of months because of it. But it just seemed right to pull it out of my wallet and say, "Here. Make sure you get to that appointment. And you need some money for getting through the week."

He was reluctant for a moment to take it, and I said, out of what impulse I know not, that people had been very kind to me and to my husband at different times in my life when we needed it, and that I would be grateful if, when he was in a good spot, he passed along the help to somebody else. He seemed somehow reassured by this, and took the money, but insisted (again, very politely) on getting my telephone number.

About two weeks later, we got a really nice message on our answering machine. It didn't have contact information, it didn't ask for anything; it was just a message of thanks. The parts in English were about thanking God for us being such good people, and the parts in another language were, I think, a blessing.

I wonder what happened to him. I hope everything turned out OK, and that he is safe and sound and having a good life with any paperwork that he needs.

In a way, it was almost like reverse panhandling. I mean, I asked him to take money. It was in no way his idea -- and believe me, I can tell when people are leading me.

The whole topic, with the recent looks at panhandling and at religion, made me think of this. I gave because the prompting inside was there, and while I won't go into specifics, that is a religious thing for me. He thanked me from his religious center, his heart, his beliefs. While I suspect we're pretty far apart in a lot of things, on that much I think we understood each other pretty well.

It'd be a different story if one of us had been trying to convince the other of something. Or, possibly, if we had just been comparing notes about our lives; while I don't know a lot about the recent Somali immigrants in my city, it's my impression that there might be some touchy ground there. But that's not what happened.

It's something I'm pondering.

#375 ::: Jennyanydots ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2007, 11:34 PM:

Oh well done elise. What a thoroughly decent and compassionate thing to do. And it takes a lot of - insight? initiative? - to recognise the point where you ought to help someone like that.

I wish I found myself in the situation to do this sort of thing for real more often: I get conned, like Rob Rusick, and I *know* I'm getting conned, and I buy the illusion anyway for a moment of feeling like I'm generous, which makes me feel guilty afterwards.

(Just to mention other truly generous people by name: the owner of the Cafe Journal in Galway, Ireland, once offered to lend my parents £200 to get home safely when we were perfect strangers who might never pay it back. My sister and I were sitting in his cafe all day looking forlorn, waiting for my parents to get back from the police station after they had had their wallet stolen while on holiday. We didn't need the money, in fact, but the offer surely stuck in my mind as an example of pure decency, and cheers me up when I'm inclined to think bad things about human nature).

#376 ::: vian ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2007, 11:56 PM:


When you give and are generous, it is for real. That is, you are really generous, and you are really doing a kind and noble thing.

If someone takes advantage of your kindness, that's sad and disappointing, but don't let it take away from your good-heartedness. When you are kind you add to the evidence that there are more lovely people in the world than there are bastards. Don't feel guilty. Feel generous.

FWIW - people are often very glad of a cheeseburger or cuppa or a train ticket, if you don't want to give cash. And those that aren't go elsewhere :).

#377 ::: Jennyanydots ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2007, 12:26 AM:

Thanks for saying that, vian, but I think I should also feel motivated to learn to be less easily manipulated by con artists!
But yes, it's a shame if one lets a few bad experiences make you more callous towards those who might genuinely need help, there are always those people as well.

#378 ::: Jennyanydots ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2007, 12:30 AM:

(I think what worries me is that the con artists are *better* at it than the people who are really in need, hence it's not a 'win-all-round' situation, by being more skilled panhandlers they are taking the money that you might otherwise give to someone it would really help).

#379 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2007, 12:33 AM:

Emrys, #363: *sigh* I know... but I do get damn sick and tired of being lectured about how I'm supposed to be nice and polite to an endless stream of people none of whom give a flying fart in a rolling donut about how rude they're being to me. Bite me, says I to that.

vian, #373: I have a similar streak when people I know complain about how they can't afford to get their pets neutered. I'll give them a check made out to the Spay & Neuter Clinic. Most of the time this gets good results; once I recall that the check "got lost" twice and I didn't give the person a third chance. (I haven't had occasion to do that in a while; these days, I'd probably get a postal money order instead, because companies are touchier about checks than they used to be.)

#380 ::: vian ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2007, 02:17 AM:

Lee: Heh.

I guess my rationalisation is to assume that people are not con-artists, and if they ask for money for food or transport (or animal spaying, why not?), that's what they need it for. And often, as it turns out, they do (or, for all I know, they take my ticket and try to sell it, but I suspect most panhandlers wouldn't want to work that hard).

#381 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2007, 05:03 AM:

Marilee @370:
PRV...what's chocolate bard?

I thought he meant Minstrels, though I'm surprised they sell them door to door in the US...

#382 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2007, 06:27 AM:

"Chocolate bard" is a one-key-away error for "bars".

CHip@372: Pretty sure. Actually, only 3rd declension nouns are irregular, in the other four you can find the stem just fine from the nominative. So that doesn't apply to "ipse, ipsa, ipsum". I find Google hits for all three spellings, although not very many for any of them. (And for all three, Google asks me if I want "ipnmobile", whatever that is.)

#383 ::: Mikael Johansson ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2007, 06:50 AM:

Regarding giving goods or services appropriate to the stories, during my last day in T'bilisi recently, I was bored, hungry and out of touch with the other conference participants when three cute girls started telling me about them having traveled far and could they have some change for food, please?

I immediately started looking for a restaurant where I could actually pay for a Good Dinner for Four - but failed after staring at three restaurants in a row (I had ~$15 in my pocket, expected to spend ~$20 and so wanted somewhere that took Visa) and gave them the local equivalent of $5.

They immediately tried to give it back, and insisted it was extreme amounts of money - but eventually went off with the money.

Next day, I go to the airport cafe to eat lunch before I fly out. And hear someone call my name enthusiastically. Turns out to be the most wellspoken of the three, now at her day job.

I got a cup of tea on the house for that.

#384 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2007, 09:27 AM:

PRV -- do those door-to-door missionary kids really manage to convert 10% of households whose doors they knock on?

#385 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2007, 10:26 AM:

Regarding those hand-outs that make the donor feel somewhat foolish -- columnist Jon Carroll writes about that sort of thing approx. once a year, praising "Random Acts of Senseless Kindness".

#386 ::: PublicRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2007, 01:52 PM:

Jo @ #384: I really have no idea what the stats are. The percentages are probably in the single digits. I was being somewhat rhetorical with my "1 home in 10" comment.

All, regarding panhandlers vs. street musicians:

I'm pretty conflicted, where panhandlers are concerned. The Christian side of me wants to give a buck to every person that asks. But since I work and commute through areas of Tacoma and Seattle that have a pretty high density, in terms of homeless/crazy folk, if I gave out a dollar to every person who asked me for one, I'd easily be out $10 at the end of the business day, and $50 at the end of every week. And my single-income family can't afford to toss out $50 for free every week, honestly. So unless I literally do have spare change in my pocket, I tell them no. And sometimes even if I do have spare change, if the person in question is obviously young and healthy and well enough of mind to find work, I won't let them have it. On principle. Old cripples or mentally ill folk are one thing. Teenaged and twenty-something kids who just don't want to get a job.... Sorry.

Street musicians are a whole other tomato, at least with me. Unlike the panhandler, who is essentially doing nothing for my money, the street musician is at least attempting to provide something which I might find of value. Depending on how good they are, I will up the amount I drop into their cup/hat/case.

Kids with no rhythm who attempt to pound tribally on a single upturned 5-gallon plastic paint can, generally don't get anything. Guitarists who can pluck a bit and whose singing is not bad on the ear, might get a couple of bucks. Sax, trumpet, trombone, and clarinet are rare, but if played well, might get the musician two to four bucks.

Then there was the fellow in the sub-street Seattle transit station under the Washington Mutual building with the hammer dulcimer a few Christmastimes ago. Guy was long-haired and shaggy enough to be a standard Seattle-flavor vagrant, but his skill with the hammer dulcimer was excellent, and he'd picked a great spot for acoustics, such that his Christmas carol playing filled the whole station. I think I gave him a 10-spot; and if memory serves, his case was filled with fives, tens, even some twenties. I bet that guy made bank that holiday season.

But he was good. And I will pay for quality. So, too, will others it would seem.

#387 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2007, 02:08 PM:

Aconite@366: We just hoped with all the will in our really-want-to-go-to-summer-camp little hearts that people would stop by the booth and drop a couple of bucks for a box of Thin Mints.

Gawd I love those things. I have a box on my desk right now. They're like little chocolate flavored cocaine wafers or something.

Now you hear all these stories about roaming bands of Girls Scouts holding people down and sewing merit badge sashes to their clothing.

I've seen it happen. It isn't a pretty sight.

#388 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2007, 03:36 PM:

PRV, I have it on good authority from friends who've worked with the homeless intensively that giving them money on the street is not a good way to help them. If people ask you for money on the street, remember that, and don't feel guilty for saying no, especially since I'll bet you give money to charity.

If they're real and hungry, there are better ways of helping them. If they're real and jonesing, you're actively harming them by giving them money. If they're con artists and/or professional mendicants, they don't deserve your money.

I offer this in the hope that you will continue your current practice, but with less guilt. Actually I think the crippled and mentally ill folk shouldn't get your street money either (see above re good ways of helping people), but that's up to you. Remember that some of them are fake too.

I agree that street musicians are a whole other thing. IMO they're the purest example of "pay what it's worth to you," surpassing even public radio in that respect!

#389 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2007, 03:53 PM:

Jennyanydots, #378: I am mean about that. I've been known to let someone run on for 2 or 3 minutes' worth of hard-luck story, and then make a comment to the effect of, "Y'know, you're just sounding more and more fake the longer you go on," before walking away. Especially if the person is well-dressed, because that pings my "trying to play on class stereotypes" trigger. If you look like an office worker, you've got ready access to enough resources that you don't need to be panhandling people on the street.

#390 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2007, 04:07 PM:

Re: Panhandlers -- if I have the spare cash, I'll offer to take them to the closest fast food place and buy a sandwich. Most of the time, I don't have the cash. But every time I've offered to do this, the potential recipient has declined.

But the ones that really annoy me are wearing track shoes and clothes that cost twice as much as what I'm wearing at the time! Man, if you can afford those kind of threads, you don't need my money.

#391 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2007, 04:59 PM:

I do try to keep a mental distinction between panhandler ("can I have some spare change to get something to eat") and grifter ("I need gas money to take care of my ailing mother...who's in memphis...and I need to pick up my pregnant daughter on the way...and drive her to new orleans..."). I've been hit with the gas grift 3 times so far - every time, I give them 5 bucks, and then when they continue their sob story I move along and kick myself.

The panhandlers may also be lying about wanting something to eat, but they don't make me feel personally preyed upon. I do give them money sometimes, even though it might not be the best thing for them--I try not to take on anyone's substance abuse or mental health issues, so if it's ultimately bad for them, because they're in fact using the money for drugs, that's their problem for lying about it.

Mainly, though, I give money to the Chicago Food Depository, because they supply all the soup kitchens in town, and they are ALL about feeding hungry people, which I'm 100% down with.

#392 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2007, 04:59 PM:

I finally found a compromise position between my need to help people and my intuition that handing people money in the street isn't the way to do it: I pay the bus fare of anyone whose standing, fumbling through their pockets for change, blocking the line, and making the bus fall behind schedule. On busy weeks, when I'm out and about a lot, it's cost me as much as six dollars, but it seems to be the most good I can do for the money.

#393 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2007, 05:29 PM:

Terry @ 362: what sort of pennywhistle? I wouldn't carry my good Sindt around in a backpack, but I've been unhappy with most of the low-end Generations and Waltons and whatnot. The Clarke Sweetone's not a bad compromise, though.

#394 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2007, 05:39 PM:

Rather well-kept panhandlers have been turning up at intersections around here lately.

One "wheelchair-bound" guy had a choice spot.

If you caught him during the shift change, you'd see him get up and walk home, pushing the wheelchair in front of him.

#395 ::: miriam beetle ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2007, 06:00 PM:


Guitarists who can pluck a bit and whose singing is not bad on the ear, might get a couple of bucks.

oh, hey! you're in seattle. is there still a guy who sings two lines of "wild horses" over & over? when i was there he was always at pike place.

#396 ::: PublicRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2007, 06:15 PM:

The gas grift really gets old, though I have a confession to tell.

A few years back, when I still lived in Seattle, I was on ADSW for 18 days at Ft. Lewis. One day I had scrambled out the door in the morning and forgot (literally) my wallet; but not my military ID. I got on base OK and was headed home that night when I noticed the tank was near empty and I'd probably not make it back to Seattle without at least a gallon or two additional.

Well, I had no wallet, hence no cash, no plastic. I sat there and pondered my own colossal stupidity before meekly entering the AM/PM store and explaining my situation to the nice woman at the register. All I had on me was my seldom-used check book, which I keep in my backpack and which is universally worthless at most gas stations these days.

She gave me $10 cash out of her own pocket. She said it was no problem helping out a Soldier. It didn't dawn on me, being a civilian most of the time, that I was still in uniform. Lucky, too. Sometimes, membership does have its priveleges. So I cut her a check for same, with the promise I would return and re-exchange the check for $10 at a later time.

I pumped gas, waved goodbye, and considered myself fortunate.

I also made sure to go back in the same AM/PM two days later, to the exact same lady, and gave her a $20.

When she balked, I told her it was ten plus interest; the least *I* could do for her having helped out an absent minded fool. She laughed at that, and kept the twenty.

I like to think I returned one favor with another. And hopefully, set a good example in her mind, in terms of Soldiers and our honesty and integrity.

Because sometimes, some of us have none, and that just pisses me off to no end. But that's another story.

Back to gas grift, I would probably trust someone offering me a check with their name and address on it, in exchange for gas money. But to just give someone gas money for free on the street? Those sob stories start to sound awfully weak/familiar after awhile.

#397 ::: PublicRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2007, 06:28 PM:

Xopher: thanks, I always wonder if I am doing harm by giving money to people who seem like they're hording just until they can seek their dealer; or the package store. You reminded me that some times, with these folk, the best thing I can do is tell them no.

Also, sometimes I think street music is simply public radio in its most direct form. (wink)

miriam: I'm seldom down that close to the water, as I work and commute to Capitol and First Hill. Once in awhile I get down by Westlake Center, which is where many of the street musicians work their trade during the warm months. Not long ago they had a great Andean flute band play there, which had drawn a substantial crowd and was raking in the bucks. Your two-line guitarist does not sound familiar, but from now on when I run into one, I will remember to listen to what he is singing, just to see if it's your guy.

I also wonder if Hammer Dulcimer man will return to the warren beneath the Washington Mutual building. He was great!

Lori & Stefan: the "well dressed" and "professional" panhandlers are scuzballs IMHO. Taking advantage of peoples' charity like that... Just inexcusable. Especially when they're part of the reason why people hesitate to give, hence they hurt all the panhandlers who might really need help! There is a 20-something blond who is like that, and works the I-5 on ramp near my office building. Her clothes are new and clean, somewhat stylish, she has makeup and headphones... Clearly, not someone in need of any charity. And yet, there she is lately, holding up her sob-story sign.

I keep wondering if perhaps she is a college student doing some kind of on-the-street study for a class or something? I never have the heart to ask.

#398 ::: Emma ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2007, 07:54 PM:

My own experience with panhandlers came when I first moved to New York; I was on the LIRR, going home after the opera, when a woman dressed in very quiet clothes, sort of gypsyish but not quite, approached me and asked me for money. She told me her wallet had been stolen and she couldnt' get home. I gave her a $20.

Didn't think much about it until two months later, when I saw the same woman doing the same thing to someone else --in the same train at the same time! I was sort of...speechless is not the word, more like fascinated into silence...watching her performance. Unfortunately for her, someone else on the train had also been her victim and started screaming at her; whereupon she turned around the whole thing ended in an operatic screaming match worthy of Carmen.

Great entertainment but it cured me of handing cash out to panhandlers.

#399 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2007, 08:39 PM:

Rikibeth: I have several, so, in part, it depends on my mood.

I don't tend to carry my Thin Weasel with me (even in its case), but the Sweetheart, in C (which looks like a recorder) is often with me, and sometimes my Dixon (which is heavy, being solid brass, as opposed to the thin stock Generation uses). The Dixon has a very clear tone in the second octave, which makes it nice, but the Thin Weasel is very bright. The Sweetheart is really warm.

I don't care for Clarke's much... I find them breathy, and inconsistent (to my umbrachure).

The past few weeks I've been carrying a Eb generation, because it carries well in the out of doors.

When I'm going to be in the wind, I tend to carry a fife, either my D (which is by some unknown) or my Sweetheart in Bb, though that takes a lot of wind.

Lessee, how many whistles do I have.

In D, two. (and the fife)

In C, two.

F, G, Eb, one each.

Bb, one fife.

Grand total, eight.

I also have a Sweetheart which had the barrel broken, and I need to send it to Conn. to be repaired, because it was a really warm, and bright, tone in D.

So maybe it's nine.

#400 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2007, 08:53 PM:

Emma@398: When I was growing up in DC, one of the Washington Post columnists* had among his oddments regular alerts for almost exactly that sort of con. Usually it was for smaller sums even allowing for ~40 years' inflation -- they'd hang around a major public-transit interchange asking for the fare to some distant point in the system -- but it was common enough that he posted lines and descriptions fairly often. I have no real-time ear for cons and no eye for expensive shoes, so I almost always follow Xopher's rule, leaning towards organizations that (a) look like they can make a permanent difference and (b) are somewhere to the left of local big donors (United Way, the Catholic archdiocese).

* Bill Gold -- anyone remember him? For some reason The District Line ran in the comics pages.

#401 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2007, 08:53 PM:

My favourite response to date was a panhandler asking for change for a cup of coffee who responded to my offer to buy him one with "Thanks man... but I just finished one ".

I've had strangers be kind to me - I've been kind to strangers - and I'm apparently one of an increasingly small number of people who will pick up hitchhikers (modulo the standard "you get time to look them over and consider"). You can't always pay back - but you can almost always pay forwards.

#402 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2007, 10:01 PM:

Terry @ 399 : ooooh, ThinWeasel and Sweethearts. I covet.


#403 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2007, 11:17 PM:

398 and 400

I met one of those in the late 80s or early 90s in Pasadena. It was two people, man and woman (oddly enough, the man was black and the woman was strawberry blond - made them stand out!) who would ask for bus fare to some place about ten miles away, saying that their car had had some disabling accident (blown head gasket, broken radiator, brake cylinder went out). One day I met them in downtwon Pasadena, and an hour later in east Pasadena, where they got off a bus and stopped me with almost the same story as they'd used downtown, but with a different city. I said 'Last time it was (prior city name)!' and walked past them. Didn't see them after that, so I think they moved to another area.

#404 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2007, 11:22 PM:

#398: I used to take the LIRR into Manhattan to visit my cousin fairly often. Once, long ago, on the way back, a young lady got on the train in Penn a few minutes before departure and announced to everyone that she needed trainfare. She walked down the aisle and collected bills from various people. I was suspicious, and didn't have money to spare, but wondered if I should give her my phone-from-the-train-station quarter.

A decade later, maybe more, I ran into the same no-longer-young lady, doing the same exact performance, only she sounded weary and burned out and pathetic, like someone going through the motions.

#405 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2007, 12:22 AM:

Abi, #381 & David, #382, I was hoping it was some kind of fancy candy. But now that you mention the close keys, that does make sense. I just googled and it turns out "bard" related to candy can also be a typo for "bark" and "bird."

CHip, #400, I remember Bill Gold. He retired and was replaced by Bob Levey who, a few years ago, retired and was replaced by John Kelly.

#406 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2007, 12:30 AM:

Rikibeth: I have some covets too, but hey, we can't have everything we want.

I'm happiest about the Thin Weasel (I one of the C whistles is a Water Weasel, but it's very chiffy, and sort of raspy in the top of the first octave), becuase he died last year, so there are no more of them.

If you're out this way, drop me a line and I'll let you play with them.

#407 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2007, 01:08 AM:

Lee (#389): I've mostly managed to avoid the sob-story folks, but I recall one time when I encountered one in Harvard Square. (They looked like they were trying to ask for directions, which I will always help with if I can.)

Her sister had been in a car accident in a town out at the end of one of the commuter rail lines, it was their only car because they traded it off while alternating shift work, she left her wallet at home, et cetera et cetera. I don't know how much of it was rehearsed and how much was ad-libbing frantically to stay ahead of my various suggestions.

I wasn't in a hurry, so I listened patiently as all of my suggestions were shown to be impractical for one reason or another and so on, then finally said "I'm sorry. I can get you onto the T so you can get to North Station, though."

Surprisingly, this offer didn't seem as helpful to her as it did to me. I did refrain from saying "next time you try this story on someone it might help to not smell like you just chugged a fifth of something strongly alcoholic", at least.

#408 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2007, 05:49 AM:

I haven't gotten the sob-story folks in a while; they used to be somewhat common around where I work. It got so that if someone approached me with a chummy manner and asked me for my name, I'd respond with something along the lines of, "Let's cut to the chase here: you're going to ask me for money, I'm going to say, 'Sorry, but no.'" It saved time. (If I'm waiting for a bus, time spent being plied with a line is time not spent reading.)

I can think of a few times, though, where someone addressed me and I thought they were going to ask for change, but they turned out to want the time, or directions. I think (hope) I was polite enough not to betray my initial reaction.

If someone addresses me, I'll acknowledge it; even if it's just, "Spare change?", I'll look at them and say, "Sorry." I figure that even if I don't give them money, I can give them a half-second of time and a civil word.

#409 ::: Emma ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2007, 10:51 AM:

Stefan @ 404: might have been the same person, actually. A bit past middle age, gray haired, looking haggard and just a little not-quite-here. She sure knew how to scream when she got ticked off, though.

#410 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2007, 03:35 PM:

David, #408: I figure that even if I don't give them money, I can give them a half-second of time and a civil word.

I would probably feel much the same if it weren't for the significant risk that even that much contact will get them following me. This particular risk is much lower for you.

#411 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 05:55 PM:

I've had quite a peculiar weekend as regards people asking for money. On Saturday morning, while waiting for a friend at Clapham Common tube station, I was approached by a woman with what looked like blood on her hand saying "I'm not a tramp or anything, can you help, I've been attacked."

I looked at her and said "Haven't we met before? Outside Victoria Station, December 30th, about 2 am? You'd been attacked and needed bus fare home?" Fortunately she disappeared before I tried to be witty about it.

Then, on Sunday night on Chambers Street in Edinburgh* a guy in a broken down Van with a non-working mobile asked for 50p for the phonebox, which I gave him. I mean, if it was a scam and he'd gone to all the bother of getting a Van and putting it in the middle of the legal district of Edinburgh, he needed all the 50ps he could get.

* I'm on the move at the moment

#412 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2007, 07:40 AM:

Just had the Jehovah's Witnesses by, with a very brief pitch to hand me a flier for a thre day convention in a nearby city (including talks, symposia, and a full costume Bible drama).

Total time with my door open: maybe 45 seconds. Polite, friendly, not discussing the meat of the matter at all.

And that is effective evangelising. If I were interested, I'd be able to go further with the information I've now got. As it is, I have one sheet to add to the recycling, and I am not annoyed.

#413 ::: Clark E. Myers ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2007, 04:00 PM:

Just possibly the white horse has gone and come back - historiography like the Soviet history of WWII at various times victory was the achievement of one man - Stalin and at other times was the achievement of the entire people - so too when the Constitution - under attack by the secret combination of Communism - hangs by a thread it will be saved by another (secretive but not secret?) combination "this people" and when under attack by individuals in the alternative the Constitution will be saved by one man - white horse - . I had always heard the "this people" version in common currency.

Joseph Smith predicted that the time would come when the Constitution would hang, as it were, by a thread, and at that time 'this people will step forth and save it from threatened destruction' (Journal History, Brigham Young's Speech, July 4, 1854). . . Ezra Taft Benson, CR, Oct 1961

#414 ::: TexAnne sees spam ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2010, 10:06 AM:

Well, at least this one's up front about it.

#415 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2010, 05:41 PM:

The spam's on the front half of the pale horse?

#416 ::: Cadbury Moose smells cabbage soup and spam on ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2011, 03:46 PM:

#417 demonstrates that we haven't heard the last of the cabbage soup spammers.

#417 ::: Cadbury Moose sees more linkspam ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2011, 05:52 AM:

#419 (which is not Nigerian for a change)

The spammers come from the woodwork out.

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