The Book of Mormon: The smug laughter of people who don’t recognize their own irrational beliefs

book-of-mormonI saw the musical The Book of Mormon yesterday. I was disappointed. I knew it would be anti-Mormon and filled with prepubescent potty and sexual humor, so that wasn’t what bothered me. What bothered me was that it wasn’t clever, that it didn’t attack genuine societal ills at home or in Africa, that it was too gay camp, and that the actors all appeared to have learned their trade from those irritating kids on the Disney channel — they overacted, mugged, and telegraphed their (obvious) punch lines. Simply put, watching puerile pokes at Mormons, who are an easy target because they’re not going to kill you, was boring.

What really irritated me was the audience. I thought it a little pathetic that they laughed so uproariously over every poop joke (I stopped doing that when I was 12), but I kind of expected that. After all, I saw the show in San Francisco, which is one of the most densely populated Progressive bastions in America. Progressives, of course, are the Party of Poop, so that humor will inevitably appeal to them.

Where the audience really let itself go, though, was with the song “I Believe,” which is something of a patter song about some of the core Mormon beliefs. I should say here that I too find the Book of Mormon unbelievable. But you know what? Viewed objectively, all faith stories are unbelievable.

Putting aside the actual history in the Bible, the faith stories in both the Old and New Testaments require . . . well, they require faith in order to accept as true all the bits about God and prophets and miracles and a son of God and resurrection, etc. You need faith to believe Mohamed was visited by a God or that Buddha’s meditation for 49 days revealed the path to all human enlightenment.

As a general matter, Trey Parker and Matt Stone are equal opportunity satirists, who focus on Mormonism because they grew up around Mormons. Given the opportunity, they’ll attack everyone and everything with ecumenical zeal (although Comedy Central, which broadcasts the show, doesn’t agree, at least not when it comes to Mohamed). Indeed, a lot of conservatives put up with Parker’sand Stone’s anti-conservative jokes because they’re amongst the rare huumorists in America who will also challenge liberal shibboleths.

But the audience watching the show wasn’t ecumenical. It was smug. Listening to their laughter, and knowing their mindset as I do, audience members weren’t just enjoying the pokes at the Mormon faith. They were enjoying the fact that they, as sophisticated people of science, would never be so naive as to believe things that have to be taken on faith. Here’s the song that really got them going:

Listening to the audience laughter, I couldn’t help thinking to myself, “Stop being so smug, guys. You too have a belief system and it’s every bit as ridiculous to an objective outsider as the belief systems driving Mormonism or any other traditional faith.” In honor of that thought, I’ve come up with my own patter song:

I believe that the whole universe came from nothing
I believe that forgiving myself means that I have no sins
And I believe that Islam is a religion of Peace
I am a Leftist
And a Leftist just believes

You cannot just believe partway
You have to believe in it all
My problem was doubting Barack’s will
Instead of standing tall

I can’t allow myself to have any doubt
It’s time to set my worries free
Time to show the world what Leftism is about
And share the power of the Left

I believe that Marx described the perfect place
I believe that plan involves an all-loving government
And I believe that Obama slowed the rise of the oceans and caused our planet to begin to heal.
I am a Leftist
And dangit, a Leftist just believes

I know that I must go and do
The things Obama commands
I realize now why He sent me here

If you ask Government in faith
It will always answer you
Just believe in It and have no fear

I believe that religion holds you back
I believe that Government has sent me here
And I believe that puny man can control the entire Earth’s atmosphere
You can be a Leftist
A Leftist who just believes

And now I can feel the excitement
This is the moment I was born to do
And I feel so incredible
To be sharing my faith with you

Das Kapital say that if you control speech
If you ask Government, you’ll know
But you must ask It without any doubt
And let your spirit grow

I believe that skin color is all that matters
I believe that Government’s better than a black kid’s dad
And I believe that Government can spend its way out of debt

If you believe, Obama will reveal it
And you’ll know it’s all true, you’ll just feel it

You’ll be a Leftist
And, by gosh, a Leftist just believes

I believe….

[Alternative additional verse:

I believe that gender’s a fluid social construct
I believe that regretting last night’s sex means I can cry rape
And I believe that Iran will be a partner in peace
I am a Leftist
And a Leftist just believes]

(As an interesting aside, my sister just called to tell me the story of someone she met who was able to quit methamphetamines cold turkey by committing to Jesus. I don’t think committing to government has the same benefits.)