Coyne and Rosenhouse are having a dustup with some mental midget “journalists” (one of these guys is actually named “douchehat”, I shit you not) regarding the centrality of original sin (caused by women, of course) to the Abrahamic tradition. This becomes a big bugaboo for Christians (and Jews and Muslims, actually) because original sin is what necessitates a “savior”, ergo Jesus. The douchehats believe that they can pretty much read whatever they want into the sacred texts, but still keep their baby Jesus, thus avoiding the nasty fact that Adam and Eve didn’t exist and that the minimum start size for our type of hominids was way more than 2….In response, Rosenhouse ask in frustration Who Gets to Define Christianity? I have an answer. Me. I’m a fucking sociologist of religion, it’s my job. And, it is really important for another little dust up going on over in the Republican Party regarding Mitt Romney’s Magik Underwear.
Christianity began as a cult movement out of Judaism, arguing that the messiah prophesied in their sacred texts had come, and articulating the mission of the messiah and his sacrifice for the sin born by all because of women (eve, garden, snake, apple….you get it?). Once the movement made this claim (a generation or so after Jesus’ death, if you look at real scholarship on the subject) and began adding new sacred texts to the classical Jewish canon–a new religious movement was born–what we call a “cult” in the sociology of religion. A cult is a movement with new revelations about supernatural rewards and compensators, and most cults are born in the same way as Christianity—adding to an existing tradition or set of traditions, rather than just making everything up anew (like Scientology). After a while, you have to stop calling cults cults, because they aren’t really new anymore. I’m giving it four generations, or 150 years after the death of the originator of the cult. By that time, there is nobody alive who knew the original religious entrepreneur, and scarcely any who knew anyone who knew him or her. So, by the Sherkat criteria, in 1994 the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints made the transition from a “cult” or “new religious movement” to an independent religious tradition. BUT I HAVE TO AGREE WITH THE FUNDIES ON THIS ONE, MORMON IS NOT CHRISTIANITY.
Joseph Smith added new sacred texts to the Christian Canon, and they were doozies!!! Spirit families, majik underwear, shit like that. It is not Christianity, just as Christianity is not Judaism. Indeed, new religious movements can be born by jettisoning key principles of religious traditions as well. Unitarians are NOT CHRISTIAN. They don’t believe in the divinity of Christ. No Jesus, no Christianity. When they forged new organizations rejecting the divinity of Jesus, they were a cult. By the Sherkat principle maybe we can say they became a “not new” religious movement about 1924.
Of course, the scientists are right—liberal Douchehats are a strange and small group compared to more orthodox non-fundies and fundies.