I don’t get the whole fuss with baptisms for the dead
So, in my email inbox, I got a google notification for a blog I haven’t read before, Vagabond Saint, for a tirade against baptisms for the dead. To be sure, Mormons have a history — first Jews, then Catholics…it’s actually rather ecumenical if you look at it…So, who’s the latest one under the sun (or…should I say, under the waters of the baptismal font)? Obama’s mother, Stanley Ann Dunham.
I understand that fuss has to be raised over every single thing the Mormon church does, but really…I don’t get the whole fuss. Allow me to explain.
The basic concept of Baptism for the dead is simple…in fact, so simple, that I’ll probably mess it up, so instead, I’ll link you here. Remember, wikipedia is not a good source for good blogs, but I don’t pretend to be one of those! If I may become a conspiracy theorist, I think the overarching purpose is to answer the long-lasting theological question of how graceful can God’s grace be when whole populations have been unexposed to it (for example, no missionary had gone there or the gospel hadn’t even existed by then)…and as a bonus, baptism by proxy also allows a chance for many people who, for whatever reason, simply rejected the gospel in this life (people refusing the gospel? perhaps it’s more likely than you think.) Baptism by proxy is a way by which members can look through their family trees (or through the family trees of celebrities, I guess) and pay their respects in a hopeful way.
A baptism by proxy does not “force” one to become Mormon. The church doesn’t baptize in a kind of vote-stuffing way to inflate its membership numbers with mickey mouses and dead actresses.
So, what, once again, is the fuss?
Vagabond Saint writes (pardon his language):
When people are re-baptised (or baptised for the first time) posthumously into the Mormon faith, without the permission or even knowledge of their families and loved ones, that’s not a choice that they made or that someone that knew them is making for them. It’s an overruling of the choice they made in life, specifically, the choice not to be a fucking Mormon. Who is the LDS to decide that your choice was wrong and should be overruled? If someone wants to become a Mormon, they’ve got their entire lives to do it, and it’s not like the little shits Mormon missionaries are hard to find. Just stay at home; they’ll come to you! My point here is that the LDS is overruling your freedom to choose not to be a part of their silly inane blasphemous ridiciulous religion. You made a choice in life; now that you’re dead and can’t fight back, the Mormons are making a choice for you. That’s not only blasphemous against the deceased person’s religious beliefs, it’s a denial of their right to choose their own religion, if any at all. It’s the antithesis of freedom: denial of choice.
Fucked up, ain’t it?
Now, the Mormon apologist on that blog says that in the afterlife, the deceased can easily refute the “gift” of Mormon baptism, so, no harm, no foul, right?
Well, right. . .if the Mormons are right about the afterlife. Show me one single goddamn shred of evidence (factual, not faith-based) that says that they are, and I’ll back off of this. But what if they’re wrong? What if Mormonism is not the One, True Religion? What if their “gift” consigned hundreds of thousands of people to an eternity in Hell? How many people are there, right now, burning and being tortured by demons and all the while yelling “FUCK YOU, JOSEPH SMIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIITH!” (Hey, the Mormon Church is saying “fuck you” to your right to choose your path to God; it’s only fair to say “fuck you” back to them.) Then there’s a pretty goodly amount of harm done, in what’s definitely a foul act. The other story that the guy posted was that it’s simply a “just in case” measure, as in “just in case we’re right.” I’ll stick with not being a Mormon, in life or in death, “just in case” you’re fucking wrong.
It seems that VS still believes that baptism ‘overrides’ and ‘overwrites’ any choice made in the current life. I still don’t know how he figures, and so I can’t even begin to address that. (Although, I might wonder what people who practice infant baptism have to say on this? I can see traces of VS’s very argument in the LDS argument for baptism later — wait until people can choose [or at least have semblance of choice, disregarding the immense social pressures involved])
He tries to mount a counterargument, and I lose him. Perhaps it is my atheist sprouting. He says that Mormon baptism overwrites the deceased original religious choice and the only argument Mormons could launch against this is to suggest that in heaven, people can refuse this baptism, but this Mormon argument only works if the Mormons are right — what if they are not? Then, someone could be Mormon baptized and sentenced to hell! Egads!
I tried to cover what I thought was wrong in a comment on his site (which is actually still awaiting moderation, oops!)
Basically, this is what it seems like to me. He wants to give Mormonism a magic ju-ju that is utterly unwarranted if Mormons are wrong. If Mormons are right…then he claims to agree that there is “no harm, no foul.” But if Mormons are wrong…game over.
That doesn’t sound right! If Mormons are wrong, then they are WRONG. Their baptism means nothing because they would have no spiritual wherewithal to do anything with it. I wonder if Vagabond Saint fears voodoo. Or horoscopes. Personally, since I don’t believe these are right, I don’t worry about them, because their incorrectness emasculates them of any possible power.
This is why I wonder if I’m being too atheistic here. But VS’s scenario proposes silly ramifications of any other gods presumed. So let’s say Mormons can be wrong, but the legitimate God would still hold a Mormon baptism (incorrect and unchosen as it is) as damning. This is like suggesting that…(graphic argument follows) someone who has died completely faithful to his wife could STILL be found to be an adulterer IF some dastardly woman robbed the grave and took advantage of a certain kind of rigor mortis (if anyone calls me out on factual inaccuracies of this scenario, note, I don’t pretend to be a good blog). Personally, notwithstanding the ridiculousness and graphic nature of the argument, I’ve never found someone who believed this to be the case.
But, now, some people might want to call me out. People do feel offense at this idea, however, and I’m not suggesting that people shouldn’t feel offended by someone robbing the grave and having their way with a dead loved one — no matter what your belief. But rather, the offense here can be summed as one of an event that takes place in the physical world. We aren’t offended because now our late friend/relative’s soul is at risk for adultery and infidelity.
And here…we are really making too much of a fuss of the LDS church, I think. Mormons do not rob graves. They do not put stinky, decaying dead bodies under water. Baptism by proxy or baptism for the dead is…just that…by proxy. For the dead. So in actuality — and I’ll probably have to be shot for revealing such candid details — the baptism for the dead translates to the baptism of a member in the temple setting while the names of the deceased are printed on cards.
…so again, if we are really getting offended because of names on a card, I’m going to have to pass on this one.
On second hand…perhaps we should start writing up memos of damnation to our worst enemies so that even if they get the last go on us in this life, we’ll have the last laugh in the next.
EDIT: Here’s what people over at Mormon Matters think about the issue (see comments).
EDIT: I kinda like the final sentence…Mormons get proxy baptisms for souls in the future, if only we will legalize gay marriage now.
EDIT: History extraordinaire Ardis Parshall notes that there *are* Mormons in Obama’s mom’s past.
EDIT: Mormon Heretic wrote about this in March!