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645. The family (XIV)

I glanced at the first few pages of Under the Banner of Heaven and this was enough to establish the book’s orientation. It comes at its subject, Mormon fundamentalism, from an establishment perspective—a perspective that assumes a priori that religious claims are not real and that the people who adumbrate them in modernity are at the very least dim, if not mentally ill. Usually, I avoid the term “fundamentalist” for this reason, since it is pejorative. I make an exception here because Mormon fundamentalists refer to themselves as “fundamentalists”.

You can tell Under the Banner of Heaven is a regime book from the first pages because it is keen to outline how “all religions have their violent fundamentalists” and then makes reference to 9/11. The event was still fresh, Banner being published in 2003, and the book’s thrust is “we have our nutcases too, so be careful not to out-group Muslims”. Movements like the New Atheists sprung up post-9/11 to suppress primal Western in-group tendencies—to suppress the healthy view we have been attacked by a traditional enemy. Hence when I read The God Delusion in about 2007 I thought “these are just 18th-century arguments that have been made forever, nothing new here”. Yet that was not the point: the point was to mobilise people in a safe way against al-Qaeda, in a way that simultaneously suppressed chthonic Western identity so as to preserve the regime—our fight is against fundamentalism, at home and abroad.

Hence Banner is subtitled “A Story of Violent Faith”—except it actually details a few murders committed by Mormon fundamentalists in the 1980s, hardly comparable to Islam’s inherent expansionist nature; and yet that is the association you are meant to make: “All religions have their nutcases—thankfully, we have a rational government staffed by experts to protect us from these people.” Indeed, Krakauer makes explicit reference to the fact that Mormons in general, never mind fundamentalists, reject “experts and intellectuals”—and they were also the electoral block that prevented the feminist Equal Rights Amendment from passing in the 1970s (woman-haters all).

Mormons are not particularly violent people—although Krakauer is careful to note that Mormon fundamentalists ban TV “like the Taliban” and that fundamentalist women occasionally wear “shawls and veils”; and, of course, the book’s central pillar, fundamentalist polygamy, again links this indigenous patriarchal movement back to “the enemy without”. Yet the Mormons, even the fundamentalists, are pacific—possibly because they have much English blood, hence their inherent politeness. The Mormons particularly offend for several reasons: they are very Anglo; they refuse to drink coffee in a time when coffee is practically an American sacrament; they have a keen interest in genealogy and bloodlines, having created a repository for intricate genetic data—an undemocratic sentiment, especially when you consider their long-standing taboos as regards blacks; they are patriarchal—the fundies even more so; they are reserved in a time when license is high-status; they do things like retroactively baptising Jews who died in the holocaust, again desecrating another American sacrament—Krakauer, a no-practising Jew, huffily reports that Mormons refer to all outsiders “even Jews” as “gentiles”.

Edward Luttwak once remarked the US intelligence services have poor language skills and are dominated by Mormons; he must have made a mistake, for the Mormons predominate in the intelligence services precisely because they are among the few American groups to have language skills—they all have to go on mission, usually abroad; and they learn languages to do so. This is about which “gentiles” run the CIA, I guess…

I once related that I knew a girl who fell in with woke politics, took a PhD in what was effectively feminist history—and then ended up paralysed, induced to play ice hockey like Wonder Woman. Well, she had relatives in Utah; and she was so impressed with them one visit she nearly converted—relatively, they were probably raving Mormon liberals; yet, in another life, I know where she would have been happy…and healthy.


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