The Mormons have again gotten into trouble for baptizing people after they were dead. The Mormons defend the practice because they feel it solves the theological problem of people who died before the one true faith (theirs) was founded being ineligible to attain Mormon salvation.
One the face of it, this is a generous offer. The faith I was raised in, the Catholic one, and I mean the old school Latin Mass one in my extreme youth, made no provision for salvation for those born BC, no matter how morally upright they might have been. Righteous heathens are heathens nonetheless, and they go to Hell, according to the nuns that taught me the faith although, also according to these authorities, most of the boys in my elementary school were going there as well. The righteous heathens, because they never had a chance to hear the Divine Word, went to their own section of eternal damnation, where the hellfire was turned down low and the imps of Satan jabbed them only lightly with their pitchforks. The parochial school boys, being Christian, did not have this option. They went to regulation eternal scorching Hell for chewing gum before Communion.
So the Mormons are offering a better deal. You don't even have to pay attention to them while you're alive, and you still get into Mormon heaven. This solves a consistent flaw in God's efforts to instruct humanity, which is that the Almighty always gives the Word to one guy, and that one guy needs to tell the rest of us. "And good luck with the angry mobs that are going to try and kill you," God should say cheerfully, after handing over the Holy Writ, because that's what happens to a lot of these guys.
Women, even though in my experience they tend to be more spiritual than men, don't found major religions, probably because they also have more sense. The devout themselves, because they all think they belong to the one true faith, no matter what religion they practice, believe that all the other faiths are nonsense, and therefore that 99% of all religions were founded by the massively deluded or self-serving hucksters.
The non-devout think that number might be slightly higher. They feel that God, in this modern day, if He wanted to order us around, could have His own TV station, Web site and even an RSS feed (for slight adjustments to the faith) if He so desired. Even in the pre-technological past he could have arranged the stars in the sky to spell out a different commandment every night, according to conventional estimates of His abilities. This leaves the logical with three possibilities:
God doesn't want us to know He for sure exists.
God doesn't care if we exist.
The atheists are right.
If you want to go on insisting that God revealed the truth to one guy, and entrusted Him with the task of spreading the Word, selecting Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, is probably the worst of all choices. Smith claimed to have been visited by an angel named Moroni, who gave him the Book of Mormon inscribed on golden tablets, which he translated by means of magical "seeing stones." (This was before Tolkien had ever written a word). That he could never produce either the golden tablets or the seeing stones afterwards ("Somebody must have walked off with them. I wish I'd never had that garage sale") did not stop him from founding his faith, but the only really plausibly spiritual thing he ever did was get himself killed by one of those angry mobs.
This happened in the nineteenth century, here in the US. At least most major religions have the good taste to mask their questionable origins in the mists of history. The Mormons at first practiced polygamy, then gave it up so Utah could become a state. They at first did not admit blacks into their fellowship, but reversed themselves on that when it became obvious that was no longer regarded as tasteful. So when notable Mormon Mitt Romney changes his positions on issues, he's not flip-flopping—he's practicing the faith of his fathers.
My own quest for spirituality has led to my conversion to Dudeism, a faith based on the Coen brothers movie "The Big Lebowski." The only requirements of the faith are living one's life in a light alcoholic daze and bowling, and I don't even do the bowling part. One of the refreshing aspects of Dudeism is that we don't whine that other people have to respect our faith. We don't respect our faith. We pray by reciting random lines from the movie script, like John Goodman's immortal utterance "You want a toe? I can get you a toe."
We can even say it in Latin. "Vis a pollicem? Digiti tibi possim. "
Unfortunately for me, Dudeism has no coherent concept of an eternal life, or much of anything else for that matter, so when my time here ends, I have no idea of what will become of me. Perhaps someone will take up a collection and have my remains iced down in hopes I may be revived for another life here. I wouldn't mind that; at least I already know my way around. And if my final refrigeration could be handled by a team of busty young women, and I could be left to chill out eternally wearing a T-shirt reading Tease Me, Please Me, Freeze Me, I think it would be a final send-off the equal of any other.
And being in a state of frozen animation might discourage the Mormons from baptizing me, if writing this hasn't done the job sufficiently already.
More by me at www.richardcahill.net