Headline news from the BBC – Is America ready for a Mormon president? Well, why not? Evidently there are two in the Republican line-up – or have been – I lose track day by day as to who is coming and who going. The Church of Christ of Latter Day Saints has about 5.7million members in the United States –would that give a Mormon candidate a distinct advantage when it comes to votes? Mormonism – about 12million worldwide - is not popular among other Christian sects, in particular fundamentalists and it is hardly surprising if, as I am led to believe, they believe God has a corporeal body and is capable of having children and humans can become gods in the afterlife! I mean the ancients of various pre-Christian civilisations believed that sort of thing, even to the extent of certain humans becoming gods in their lifetime. In a poll in 2007, attitudes towards Mormons were much less favourable than other Christian faiths, but better than those for Muslims or atheists. Evangelical Christians reject the Book of Mormon, the sacred text of the Latter Day Saint faith, and do not consider Mormons to be true Christians. On occasions, these tensions are laid bare. Reading a summery of Mormon beliefs it hardly surprises me. Everlasting life for Mormons doesn’t start after death but before birth when we are all “spirit children.” Strikes me as particularly weird but there you are, that is what they believe.
As far as America accepting a Mormon president I wonder where Judaism comes into the equation and, although there have been Jewish city mayors etcetera, will the states ever have a Jewish president? Once upon a time there was a debate as to whether Americans were prepared to elect a Catholic president and, with the election of Kennedy, obviously they were. Now they have elected a black man so who else is in the offing? A black woman would be something to talk about and why not if the likes of those frightening tea-party women are serious contenders? I don’t know if America will take one of them to its heart but they sure scare the shit out of me.
Meanwhile in a little European country that would fit comfortably into one of America’s states: that is Holland; or the Netherlands, or Nederland if you prefer, Christianity is taking a decided turn around the twist. The Reverend Klaas Hendrikse does not believe in life after death and makes no bones about it. He is part of the mainstream Protestant Church and presides over the Exodus Church in Gorinchem, central Holland. The service is conventional enough but the message of his sermons is bleak if you feel the need for eternal life – ‘Make the most of life on earth because it will probably be the only one you get.’ He says he has no talent for believing in life after death nor does he believe that God exists at all as a supernatural being. God, he says, is a word for experience - human experience. He describes the Bible's account of Jesus’ life as a mythological story about a man who may never have existed, even if it is a valuable source of wisdom about how to lead a good life. In actual fact I believe the Roman census indicates that Jesus (or Joshua Ben Joseph to give him his correct name) did exist though whether he was the son of God is another matter entirely and one for endless debate as the many Christian churches, beliefs and sects would indicate.
But the Reverend Hendrikse is not alone. A study by the Free University of Amsterdam found that one-in-six clergy in the church and six other smaller denominations is either agnostic or atheist.
Click to play