The presidential election this year is shaping up on several fronts. The economy is up and down, and where it lands in November will be a big factor in determining a lot of swing votes.
However, the issue of how religion factors into the election has been downplayed considerably so far.
This is partly due to journalists not wanting to be seen to be attacking "religion", and also perhaps not wanting to mix religion wih politics (as if!) or not feeling entirely comfortable attacking Romney more directly on his Mormon beliefs and the wacky excesses of the Mormon church in general.
Whatever the reason, Romney has a religion gap, particularly in the South with evangelicals, most of whom will vote for Anyone But Obama, but feel queasy about voting for a Mormon. Romney's speech at Liberty University was a hint at his approach - talk about all those conservative social values we have in common while leaving out the part where he thinks their religion lives in apostasy.
And while we had Rick Santorum to kick around, there was the Mormon-Catholic gap - how would conservative Catholics feel about voting for a Mormon?
So here we are - three major "conservative" religious groups, sort of banding together to get Anyone But Obama into the White House - Mormons (overwhelmingly in favor of Romney), Evangelicals (overwhelmingly in favor of ABO), conservative Catholics (also favoring ABO).
But this is a coalition forged in the depths of wretched compromise, and if you delve into the beliefs of each group, you see how tenuous this is, and why it is that it's best for them not to ask too many questions.
First, Mormons. What do they (and by "they" I mean the public position of the church) think of oher religions, including Evangelical Christianity and Catholicism?
Joseph Smith decalred that Chrisitanity had been apostate since the death of the last Apostle in 70 AD, so that basicall says that they regard all branches of Christianity today as apostate. No ifs ands or buts. That probably goes double for the Catholics because they've presided over the last two millennia pretty badly. Smith did have a sort of kind word or two to say about Calvin and Luther, so maybe the Evangelicals get a tiny break, but not much.
Now publicly, the Mormon hierarchy tends to downplay this as much as possible - they try to pull off the "Aw shucks, we're just trying to get along...", but make no mistake, they official church position is that they despise everything that every other church and religion stands for.
What about Catholics?
Well, conservative Catholics are more likely beholden to the Pope for their beliefs, so their view of other religions and branches of Christianity is a poorly disguised contempt. Oh, there's a faint diplomatic veneer of tolerance, but make no doubt about it, if there was a sheep and goats moment, everyone not on the good ship Vatican is going goat-side.
And Evangelicals, what about them?
This may be a surprise, but Evangelicals are perhaps the most tolerant of the three groups. The surprise comes because the public pronouncements of Evangelical leaders are actually much more in line with their beliefs - they tend to say what they mean and believe, which is, in many ways, admirable. You may not like it, but you usually don't have to guess what they're getting at. In Eveangelical land, there is deep rooted suspicion of Mormons. They see Mormonism as a cult (which in many ways it is).
They are less suspicious of Catholics, because they've been around longer and are, in many senses, the root church of Evangelicals, whether they like it or not. However, huge differences exist in practice between the two groups. Meditation, icons, dress-up robes, incense, the Apocrypha are all items of which Evangelicals are very suspicious.
So to summarize:
Mormons -> Catholics = apostate
Mormons -> Evangelicals = slightly less apostate
Catholics -> Mormons = not a real religion
Catholics -> Evangelicals = not true Christianity, tolerated but just
Evangelics -> Mormons = cult
Evangelicals -> Catholics = lost the plot, out of touch, borderline apostate
So there you are - an alliance that would make Machiavelli proud. And the only candidate they can agree on is Anyone But Obama...