Jim Antle writes on the left’s recent anti-Mormon assaults:

The standards being set by the Mormonphobes could have the effect of excluding a lot of other believers from the political process.

Today is the Orthodox celebration of Nativity on the Old Calendar (some Orthodox have already celebrated the Feast on Dec. 25), and today seems a good day to make a few more remarks on the implications of the Linker and Weisberg anti-Mormon articles.  Weisberg is more explicit than Linker and takes a slightly different tack when he indicates his preference for older religions that have had centuries to more effectively dilute the stranger and more troubling (to secularists) aspects of their teachings.  Thus Weisberg:

The world’s greater religions have had time to splinter, moderate, and turn their myths into metaphor. The Church of Latter-day Saints is expanding rapidly and liberalizing in various ways, but it remains fundamentally an orthodox creed with no visible reform wing.  

Where Linker seems to favour the anchors of long-established traditions that keep a religion from becoming unmoored by the latest prophetic wind (regardless of how exaggerated his view of Mormon prophecy may be), Weisberg prefers really old religions on the implausible grounds that great antiquity results in a religion turning its truth-claims into mere metaphor and sentiment.  The venerability of a religion somehow guarantees its moderate, “reformed” state.  It is the lack of such “reformed” moderates (i.e., the lack of people like Bishop Spong to openly deny central tenets of the religion) that makes Mormonism beyond the secularist pale.  At least most of the other religions have some respectably black sheep and dissidents a secularist can admire and root for: “Go Kueng!  Go Armstrong!  Go Hauerwas!”  For a secularist looking for a ray of “enlightened” hope in different religions, Mormonism must present an unusually bleak picture.  For good or ill, these folks all really believe what they are supposed to believe (and they don’t even offer yoga classes!).  

While there are strands of Judaism and Christianity that make a virtue out of their progressiveness and just how “with it” they can be, these are precisely the strands (think Conservative Judaism or the Episcopal Church) that are dwindling in numbers.  The most robust and fast-growing religious groups tend to be those that emphasise the reality of what their revelation claims to be true.  (See The Economist’s survey of Pentecostalism for some interesting reporting on one of these groups.)  After all, what else would really be the point of religious observance if there were ultimately nothing behind it but some nice imagery or if it was nothing more than, as a much less friendly observer put it, “mucking about with half-remembered lines of bad poetry”?  (For the record, if there was any doubt, I don’t agree with that observer.)  

Today, for instance, the Orthodox did not celebrate a nice, imaginary idea of God coming down to earth out of compassion for us, but celebrated an event that happened and had to have happened if our Faith is to mean anything.  Today we marked the day when God was born in the flesh of a Virgin.  Perhaps that true miracle and the stories in the Book of Mormon appear equally plausible to someone like Weisberg, but if he is serious about his argument he can no more honestly accept anyone who believes in the Incarnation (which will always appear as foolishness to the Greeks) than he can a Mormon.  I say this not because I think the beliefs of the Orthodox and Mormons are comparably true on the one hand or equally implausible on the other, but because I think a rampaging secularist does not get to pretend that he tolerates religious non-Mormons as political candidates when he obviously cannot really do so (if he is telling us the truth about why he objects to Mormonism in a candidate) but gets some special exemption to regard Mormons as especially foolish. 

Jim has Weisberg dead to rights:

In other words, religion is fine if you are a Unitarian or can reduce your scriptures to poetry. But if you actually believe that stuff, you might be a fanatic.