Why Mormons are probably atheists
davidstarlingm has asked how the definitions that I provided for “God” and “theism” would relate to Mormonism:
“where do the various flavors of polytheism, including Mormonism, fall into your definition? The Mormon Elohim is not the ultimate agent cause of everything that exists, as he is both contingent on a higher entity (the creator of Kolob, I think) and was not actually responsible for the creation of the universe itself.”
To recap, these are the definitions:
Theism is minimally the position that the ultimate cause of everything that contingently exists is an agent cause.
God is minimally the ultimate agent cause of everything that contingently exists.
It should be clear that these definitions spell trouble for Mormonism. As Lorenzo Snow, the head prophet of the LDS Church from 1898-1901 declared, “As man now is, God once was; as God is now man may be.” This tidy axiom summarizes the core message of Mormon theology: the Christian God was once a human who evolved to become a divine being, and we too can follow that same path.
It is important that we get our heads around the fact that this entity that is the object of Mormon pious devotion entered the scene a finite time ago and evolved into his exalted status. Moreover, an infinite number of entities had evolved into divine status before the entity of Mormon devotion appeared on the scene. All of this begs the question: where did this whole infinite regress of evolving entities come from? What holds it all in being? Mormonism provides no answer, at least none of which I am aware.
This means that Mormonism is plausibly not a form of theism at all. There is one alternative however. Mormons could go on to affirm an additional agent that exists necessarily and wills the existence of this infinite regress of finite evolving entities. But if they decide to take that route, then why are Mormons now wasting their time worshipping the finite created being they piously call “Heavenly Father”? Why don’t they direct their devotional energies toward the one real divine being that stands behind all things and upholds all things?
The answer is clear: they don’t believe any creator of the whole process exists. They only believe there is this infinite regress of finite evolving entities including their Heavenly Father.
And if that is true then according to our definitions Mormons are in fact atheists.
Does this seem counterintuitive? It shouldn’t. Imagine that super intelligent aliens came to earth who had evolved a finite time ago on another planet and now had super intelligent technology. Some people would probably start worshipping them, but it certainly wouldn’t be proper to call those people theists in virtue of their worshipping those aliens. Nor is it plausible to call Mormons theists in virtue of their worshipping their Yahweh which is a finite creature that evolved in the middle of an infinite series of finite evolving creatures.
All this has a really interesting payoff that should interest us all for its delicious irony: Americans may end up electing the first atheist president sooner than anybody thought!