Like several faiths, the Mormons have the odious practice of proxy baptism, in which one can baptize a living person in the name of a dead heathen, thus ensuring that that heathen will go to heaven. As the Wall Street Journal notes:
Baptism by proxy has its roots in early Mormonism, when adherents were troubled by the fact that their ancestors had died before the 1830 founding of what became the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Mormon prophet Joseph Smith taught that baptism was necessary for salvation and that only those baptisms performed by the true, restored church counted. That left the vast bulk of humanity on the outside looking in.
Smith wanted to offer a second chance to those who had died. Bringing to life an obscure New Testament passage about believers being “baptized for the dead,” he announced that his followers could seek baptism on behalf of their departed kin.
This, by the way, explains the Mormons’ fascination with genealogy, for they need to know their ancestors to ensure that those ancestors enter the Kingdom of God.
The Mormon Church has gone nuts with proxy baptism, conferring it on everyone from Albert Einstein and George Washington to Barack Obama’s mother. They even baptized the parents of Holocaust survivor and Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal.
The Mormons’ obsession with baptizing Jews and Holocaust survivors (really, why do they want to do that?) finally raised Jewish hackles, and the Church has vowed to stop turning Jews into posthumous Mormons. Yet the madness continues—in an obsession with baptizing Anne Frank. As USA Today (and other places) reports,
Radkey [Helen Radkey, an ex-Mormon who investigates issues of proxy baptism] said she discovered that Annelies Marie “Anne” Frank, who died at Bergen Belsen death camp in 1945 at age 15, was baptized by proxy on Saturday. Mormons have submitted versions of her name at least a dozen times for proxy rites and carried out the ritual at least nine times from 1989 to 1999, according to Radkey. But Radkey says this is the first time in more than a decade that Frank’s name has been discovered in a database that can be used both for genealogy and also to submit a deceased person’s name to be considered for proxy baptism — a separate process,according to a spokesman for the church. The database is only open to Mormons.
A screen shot of the database sent by Radkey shows a page for Frank stating “completed” next to categories labeled “Baptism” and “Confirmation,” with the date Feb. 18, 2012, and the name of the Santo Domingo Dominican Republic Temple.
From a HuffPo article (click to enlarge):
Well, it’s all madness, for the Mormons’ zeal for baptism (based on Scripture, of course) is just as evidentially unfounded as the Jews’ taking offense in the name of their God, but, really, the Mormons ought to have some decency here and lay off.
On a lighter note, reader Diane G. notes that we can get revenge, for on this site you can convert a dead Mormon into being gay. I’ve converted Joseph Smith:
And be sure to see Bill Maher’s hilarious unbaptism of Mitt Romney’s dead father-in-law (who in life was an atheist).
But this brings up a serious question: how do we deal with political candidates who are religious? Of course they shouldn’t be prevented from running for office, but how far can we evaluate them based on their beliefs?
The United States has an invidious history of this: John F. Kennedy was widely criticized for being Catholic, and had to make an explicit statement that he would separate his faith from his goverenance. We’ve had no Jews as President, and it’ll be a cold day in July when we have an atheist President.
Can we still hold candidates accountable for their beliefs, though? Can we even ask them about their beliefs? The Wall Street Journal says this:
But Mr. Romney can’t take responsibility for all the members of his church or its hierarchy. To be sure, one might reasonably ask him to comment on his church’s century-and-a-quarter denial of full membership to persons of African descent, a ban that did not end until Mr. Romney was 30 years old. Like most any human institution, the Mormon Church has a great deal of explaining and apologizing to do for its past mistakes. In this instance of proxy baptism, though, the level of outrage simply does not match the purported offense.
I go back and forth on this. I agree with the WSJ comment above, in that acceptance of (erstwhile) Church policy on minorities does have a direct effect on governance, but I’m not so sure that candidates should be asked publicly to explain or defend their faiths unless those faiths might impact their views and actions in office. At the very least they should say that they’ll keep their faiths separate from their governance.
But still, with loonies like Rick Santorum— who believes in Satan—on the loose, I don’t think I’d even consider voting for a candidate whose religious beliefs were so extreme. Obama, well, yes, but fundies like Santorum—hell no, even if they were Democrats. (That’s very rare, of course).
Question for readers: how seriously would you consider religious beliefs when evaluating candidates for government office? (I realize that this is more a problem in the U.S. than elsewhere.)