William Least Heat-Moon, Blue Highways, p 317 (thanks, Tom!):

Joseph Smith an eighteen-year-old with small hands and big feet, a quiet and “unlaughing” boy, encountered the Angel Moroni, son of Mormon, on a drumlin alongside a little road south of Palmyra [N.Y.] in 1827. . . . There he unearthed the golden plates that he said were the source of the Book of Mormon. With the aid of an ancient pair of optical instruments, the Urim and Thummin, which Smith found with the plates, he was able to translate the “revised” Egyptian hieroglyphics, although he insisted on dictating his translation to scribes from behind a curtain.

Well, of course he did.  [Eye roll.]  Yet the several Mormons I’ve been fortunate to know well are wonderfully decent, constructive, enthusiastic souls (who’ve been fine about my living in sin).  And as the simple Ugandan woman says near the end of “The Book of Mormon,” the most profane, blasphemous, irreverent show ever . . . thereby redeeming the entire show and bringing sense to the entire religion (and not just Mormonism, all religions) . . . “Eet eez a MET-a-phor!

If you haven’t seen the show, it’s near the end.  The young white missionaries have become disillusioned by the preposterousness of the story they’ve been telling the heathens, who are, of course, rather more well grounded in reality.  The woman in question, agape in disbelief — these boys think we’re supposed to believe this stuff literally??? — and delivers the line.

(Could someone please get this word to the Islamic fundamentalists?  Or at least to those who believe God calls them to murder?)

I love Santa Claus and all the good he stands for (but don’t believe he actually clambers down chimneys).  I love “It’s a Wonderful Life,” and all the good it stands for (but, unlike most Americans, don’t believe in angels).  I love the teachings of Jesus (but don’t believe he walked on water).  I love “The Ten Commandments” (but don’t believe God parted the Red Sea).  And call me crazy, but I don’t think Joseph Smith had an Urim or a Thummin behind that curtain (maybe an Urim, but surely not both).

From age 10, I have been an aggressive atheist.

But that doesn’t make Christmas any less magical for me, the Sermon on the Mount any less inspirational, tikkun olam any less a beacon, or “The Ten Commandments” any less stirring.

Merry Christmas!

In the words of Tiny Tim: “God bless us, everyone!”



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