More on this later. And none of this should be ascribed to any particular religion, because this kind of extremism is potentially part and parcel of any religion. But this is the kind of thing that scares the crap out of me and (probably) my fellow agnostics. Check it out.
I’m reading Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith, a book about the admittedly spooky side of the Mormon faith. It makes a careful distinction between ordinary Mormons and the fundamentalist sort, and the distinction should be remembered. I knew Mormons at the University of Wyoming, and they were no more remarkable than the Catholics I met ten years later at the temp assignment I got in St. Paul, Minnesota.
But this is what many agnostics find terrifying about any religious faith, no matter how close or how far or how likely in terms of their acceptance. Well, what this agnostic fears, anyway. I’m so cute when I get all grand about my pronouncements, which may or may not apply to anyone living. But still! This scares the crap out of me!
Okay, the quote in question, which applies to two Mormons who murdered their brother’s wife and 15-month-old daughter for reasons of faith:
“I’ve always been interested in God and the Kingdom of God,” [Dan Lafferty] says. “It’s been the center of my focus since I was a young child.” And he is certain God intended for him to kill Brenda [age 25] and Erica Lafferty [age 15 months]: “It was like someone had taken me by the hand that day and led me comfortably through everything that happened. Ron [Lafferty’s brother] had received a revelation from God that these lives were to be taken. I was the one who was supposed to do it. And if God wants something to be done, it wil be done. You don’t want to offend Him by refusing to do His work.”
There’s more here, that has nothing to do with Mormonism and everything to do with religion everywhere. Why does a force that propels some toward good then propel them toward total and utter evil?
This scares the crap out of me, as someone who stands mostly apart from the religious impulse whether it’s benign or malignant. What happens that makes the difference? What differentiates the nut from the simply devout? How can anyone who isn’t clear on religion – but embraces religion – be sure that he or she isn’t also embracing insanity without realizing it? I’m not saying it’s a given. I’m saying that the prospect freaks me out.