You would think that the Latter Day Saints would have folded by now. Their founder, Joseph Smith, was a convicted con-man that claimed he could translate Egyptian into English by looking at magic stones in a hat. (Those bogus translations are still Mormon scripture!) He was tarred and feathered and beaten unconscious by his own flock after he fleeced them in the Kirtland Bank Scandal. That crisis saw half of the church leave the faith, including most of the original 12 Mormon Apostles. His Book of Mormon, a supposed account of ancient American Indians, contains many tools, foods, materials, weapons, and animals that never existed in America before Columbus. He was convicted of fraud. He was killed by an angry mob while sitting in jail on charges of treason.
You would think that a religion founded by a fraud and con-man would die quickly. What allows the Mormon faith to survive?
While Mormon theology is wildly heretical to all other Christian faiths, it appears that they endure principally because they are exceedingly cordial to outsiders. Mormon believers are kind, respectful and courteous. Their beliefs are extreme and controversial, but they never argue these points. I have known three Mormon families, been to their temples and homes, and worked beside them. They are simply the nicest people I have ever met.
Consider the dichotomy between their extreme beliefs and their inoffensive behavior. They think God the father had literal, physical sex with the Virgin Mary! (Then how is she still a virgin?) They believe God was once a man, and he now lives on planet Kolob! They also believe that the most devout Mormon believers will themselves become gods! One of their prophets, who chat with God, said humans live on the Sun and dress like Amish people. Such beliefs are considered crazy even by other theists, yet they hardly every attack Mormonism. Nobody wants to be unkind to simple, respectful people.
Now consider atheists. All religious faiths agree with us. (The Jews agree with us that the Hindu gods are phoney. The Christians agree with us that Islam is bogus. The Hindus agree with us that Jesus was nobody special.) We largely embrace proven science with logic, reason and evidence. By the facts, you would think we would outnumber the superstitious, but no. We are vilified and mocked. We have utterly no political or financial power. As a group, we are as ineffective and powerless as the gods we mock.
So why does a plainly fringe religion get a pass, while reasonable atheists are persecuted? The answer, I believe, is that some atheists aren't very nice.
Our argumentative nature makes it hard for moderates and liberals to side with us. We push away those who might otherwise support us. Our podcasts, web sites, and YouTube channels are expletive-laced, condescending and rude. We are known for our purposely provocative billboards and lawsuits. Some percentage of atheists don't come out of the closet simply because they don't want to be associated with such offensive behavior.
I simply advocate respectful and non-threatening behavior and language. I urge atheists to use the civil language of doctors, newscasters, and teachers, and not the curse-word-laden language associated with drug-dealers and gang members. In short, I suggest we take a cue from the Mormons and act peacefully and respectfully.
I am not advocating accommodation. Accomodationists think we should just shut up about our differences. They think it's politically incorrect to bring up such matters. That's not my position at all. There is a big difference between discussing issues respectfully and not discussing them at all.
We can disagree with theists without talking trash. In almost every other avenue of life, we respect the people who can make their point without being coarse, personal or mean. I think that atheism should be no less respectful.
If the Mormons can get a pass on their ludicrous religious ideas for 100 years by being cordial, a dose of that tactic might not do atheism any harm.