Posts Tagged ‘cults

15
Sep
09

Cults Part Two: Why Even Smart People Fall Prey

In my previous article I posted in length Scott Peck’s characteristics of a cult which gave the word a broader meaning. Now let’s try to answer the question: Why do even smart people fall prey to the lies and manipulations of a charismatic cult leader?

Before we proceed, I must give the same warning I gave in Part I:

This may be a sensitive topic depending on the reader’s religious membership. I did not say ‘religious views’ because if the reader has any real views of his/her own not based on dogma, this is actually a very enlightening article. Moreover, as much as this is my personal blog and I am like a god here who can say anything he wants, I am a kind and loving god to my readers and so I’ll try to write this as gently albeit objectively as possible so as not to offend anyone. Of course, I’m not omnipotent so please forgive any shortcomings.

According to Scott Peck, the following are some of the things to watch out for in an organization:

1.) A living, self-appointed leader generally esteemed as God’s representative on Earth having the sole right to interpret the scripture, who commits serious ethical violations like preaching against wealth yet buys expensive cars – with the cult members’ money.

2.) The use of controlling techniques like hell- and salvation-based fear, where independent thinking and questioning of any sort are highly discouraged or actively suppressed

3.) Social and physical isolation – a sharp distinction is drawn between members and those outside the cult, and there is pervasive distrust for everyone except the “saved” cult members

4.) Extremist or fanatical behavior like compulsively and constantly trying to convert everyone by threatening them with eternal damnation

5.) Management secrecy – refusal to produce financial records and unethical fund raising using front groups

There are more extreme examples in Part I, and although there are no black and white answers or exact gauges, I guess the more of these characteristics are present in an organization, the more likely it is a cult. The bottom line is that people are being manipulated to the excessive financial and political advantage of the leader.

So why do even smart people fall prey? Growing up in predominantly religious environments, a lot of people fear and obey God without question lest they be cast into the eternal Lake of Fire where their souls will burn for all eternity while their family and friends rejoice and feast in Paradise. The punishment is just too great to risk it. So when someone who looks decent and credible enough claims to be a special messenger from God, a lot of people do not dare to question. Especially if he assures them of salvation from Eternal Hell.

The fact that this ‘messenger’ is self-appointed without any official endorsement from God Himself escapes even the supposedly smart people and they often believe this ‘representative’ when he says that God ‘revealed’ something to him.

Here is what the deists have to say about ‘revelation':

In the religious sense, revelation usually means divine revelation. This is meaningless, since revelation can only be revelation in the first instance. For example, if God revealed something to me, that would be a divine revelation to me. If I then told someone else what God told me it would be mere hearsay to the person I tell. If that person believed what I said, they would not be putting their trust in God, but in me, believing what I told them was actually true. (deism.com)

Moreover, can anyone imagine a loving and merciful God who would punish His own creation for the imperfections He Himself caused? If a boy makes a kite that won’t fly, probably the most he will do is throw it away and then make another. He will not burn it – much less for all eternity. Well a sadistic kid with the makings of a sociopath might do that, but is that what God is supposed to be – a sadist?

Sadly, many still fall for these self-appointed ‘representatives’ and give up or at least suspend their reason in favor of blind faith because, as the ‘messengers’ say, that’s the ‘order of God’. Sadder still, these ‘appointed ones’ talk about a Kingdom of God in Heaven while building their own material kingdoms here on Earth – using their members’ money of course. inner minds

15
Sep
09

Cults: Why Even Smart People Fall Prey

Warning: This may be a sensitive topic depending on the reader’s religious membership. I did not say ‘religious views’ because if the reader has any real views of his/her own not based on dogma, this is actually a very enlightening article. Moreover, as much as this is my personal blog and I am like a god here who can say anything he wants, I am a kind and loving god to my readers and so I’ll try to write this as gently albeit objectively as possible so as not to offend anyone. Of course, I’m not omnipotent so please forgive any shortcomings.

First things first. To avoid confusion from mere semantics, let us try to define the word ‘cult’. While there are different, often contradicting meanings (you can google all you want), for the purpose of this article I will be using M. Scott Peck’s ‘characteristics of a cult’ from his book Further Along The Road Less Traveled. I wanted to abridge it by taking out the less important parts but it turns out I can’t do that without compromising neutrality – I told you I wasn’t omnipotent. But for your convenience I highlighted key phrases so you can just scan through the whole thing:

1.) Having a charismatic leader demanding total authority. Destructive religious groups almost invariably center around a living, self-appointed leader. This leader is generally esteemed as God’s representative on Earth, as God Himself, or as one who has the sole right to interpret the scripture of an established religion. The cult doctrine is based on his revelations or ideology. Because of his position of divine enlightenment, the cult leader exercises tremendous, and often absolute, authority over his followers. Individual cult members surrender their wills and their lives to the responsibility and authority of the leader. Additionally, since no large organization can be run by one individual, the cult leader generally has a “revered inner circle” or a group of loyal helpers appointed by the leader, who, to a lesser degree, share the prestige and power of the cult leader. Also, there are often serious ethical violations committed by the cult leader: the leader claims to be chaste and then impregnates a follower, the leader preaches against drugs or wealth yet buys expensive cars — and often drugs — with the cult members’ money. It is important to note, however, that it is not the mere presence of a leader that differentiates destructive cults from non-destructive religious groups; rather, it is the fact that this leader is plagued by ethical questions and demands total authority over his followers. This authority is derived through practicing “brain washing” techniques, isolating the cult followers, demanding fanatical practices, and using deception.

2.) The Use of “Controlling” Techniques. A large part of what makes a cult “destructive” is its use of fear or guilt-based “mind control” techniques. In order to indoctrinate and reinforce the follower, various forms of physical deprivation, social and physical isolation techniques, hell and salvation-based fear techniques and, most commonly, guilt-based, ritualistic confession of sins is used. In the cult environment, this confession goes far beyond its normal religious function. A follower’s thoughts are no longer his or her own — every past and previous thought and action now becomes the property of the group. The group and its leaders use this information — extracted in long confession sessions — to manipulate and shame the individual. Also, critical thinking and views that differ from those of the group are highly discouraged or actively suppressed and, as a general rule, the cult community does not permit questioning of any sort. The net result of these controlling techniques is a shift in the followers’ locus of control and responsibility. Followers lose the ability to think and act independently, and develop a tremendous and harmful dependency upon the cult group and its leader.

3.) Social and Physical Isolation. Cult members normally live in some form of isolation from the greater society. Almost invariably, cult members experience some form of social isolation — i.e. they have very little meaningful interaction with non-cult members. This occurs in large part because virtually all of their time, effort, and finances are devoted to the cult and its leader, leaving little time for family, old friends, and their jobs. A sharp we/they distinction is drawn between members and those outside the cult, and a pervasive distrust for everyone except the “saved” cult members is fostered by the community. Though not quite as common, destructive cults often require physical isolation as well. Cult members live in communes, and often cannot leave without permission. This serves to further isolate the cult member from those who would support his or her original belief system.

4.) Extremist or Fanatical Behavior. One of the true defining characteristics of a destructive cult is its pervasive fanaticism — i.e. when a behavior or practice that is not necessarily harmful (such as confession) is taken to a tremendous and unhealthy extreme. Members often neglect or abandon their families, jobs, schools, possessions, and lives to protect the cult leader and community. One area where unhealthy excess is clear is in the dangerous or ascetic rituals of a destructive religious group. Excessive praying, chanting, fasting, and sleep deprivation can cause anxiety, exhaustion, illness, and eating disorders. Other dangerous rituals such as snake handling can prove lethal. A second area where fanaticism appears is in the way believers “witness” their beliefs and attempt to convert new followers. The believers are compulsively and constantly witnessing beliefs to everyone, often in an extreme or confrontational way. This aggressive, high-pressure proselytizing can involve door-to-door recruiting, daily calls to potential converts, or threats of eternal damnation. A final area where cults manifest an unhealthy excess is in the endorsement of various forms of violence when used for or by the cult. This can translate into a stock-piling of arms in Waco Texas, or a “spare the rod, spoil the child” abusive mentality in Jonestown.

5.) Secrecy and Deception. Another part of what makes cults destructive forces in peoples lives is the fact that the followers are often unaware of certain cult activities, or are blatantly being deceived. Cult leaders often issue a “Sicilian Code of Silence” about their unethical conduct. Also, there is often “secret doctrine” reserved only for cult members, and levels of “secret doctrine” as one goes up the hierarchy of leaders within the cult structure. Destructive cults are often characterized by financial secrecy and deception as well, including the selling of indulgences, unethical fund raising, and a refusal to produce financial records. Additionally, “miracles” are often staged at “revivals,” in the form of phony faith-healings. Finally, cults such as the Boston Church operate using “front groups” — subsidiary groups which use a different name, but in reality are a part of the same destructive group. Cults often use this method to penetrate college campuses.

Okay, now we have a rough idea of what a cult is. While it doesn’t say that all of the above must be present, it’s only logical to presume that the more of these characteristics a certain organization has, the more likely it is to be a cult.

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03
Sep
09

Why People Worship Money

Money is powerful. Money is generally good (to the one who has it). Money is everywhere (or more accurately, it is recognized almost everywhere). And those with the Money know everything, or at least they know a whole lot more than those without. More importantly, what they know are often things that would point them in the direction of even more Money.

Ah, Money. Almost omnipotent, generally omni-benevolent, virtually omni-present, practically omniscient. Money’s ‘omnis’ may have qualifiers, but its powers are unmistakably tangible and immediately detectable. And Money begets more Money. No wonder people worship it.

Now it is written in the Bible: The love of money is the root of all evil. But is it? How about Lust? Isn’t that a root of the evil of rape? How about Anger, Envy, Pride? Surely more horrid things had been done out of these than for the love of money.

Now I could almost hear the atheists say, “And even more terrible things like murder and genocide had been done in the name of god”. Well, I think ‘in the name of religion‘ would be more accurate. Because how can different people supposedly created by the same God receive separate ‘instructions’ from their ‘God’ to kill each other just because the other is an idolater or infidel?

And now I could almost hear the theists say, “But greater evils were done by Hitler, Stalin, and Mao who were all supposed to be atheists!” Well I think these atrocities had nothing to do with whether or not these leaders believed in God but rather on how they controlled their subjects in a cult-like fashion not unlike some religions – by striking the fear of death into their hearts. The only difference is that while the death the dictators deal is corporal, the death that religions use to threaten the unbelievers is eternal. I wonder which one is more effective in controlling legions and enforcing the leader’s will.

But I guess the more important question is, why do monarchs as well as religious cult leaders have to use the fear of death to control entire populations? Ah, for the love of money. And so while the monarch says, “Give me your money or else you will die”, the religious cult leader says, “Your money will only weigh down your soul and lead to your eternal damnation. Give it to me and worship me instead”. inner minds

30
Aug
09

The Boss

Rule # 1: The Boss is always right.
Rule# 2: When the Boss is wrong, refer to Rule # 1.

For as long as the order is not illegal, it is poor judgment to defy or even question the Boss. Because even if your immediate boss is not The Boss or the owner/chief executive of the company, you are answerable only to your direct boss, just as he/she is answerable only to his/her immediate boss. So if you think that a certain order is counterproductive and not in the company’s best interest, for as long as it is not illegal you must obey it, because whether it turns out to be a good or bad move, in the eyes of higher management credit and accountability belong to your boss, and you will be rated by your boss based on how closely you followed his/her instructions regardless of the result. You can point out the disadvantages of his/her plan though, especially if your opinion was sought, but your Boss has the final word.

That’s in the corporate world. Now for the spiritual world, a lot of people believe in a Big Boss up there. I do too. The only problem is we have not seen or heard from this Boss, and a lot of people claim that they have direct instructions from Him that we must follow lest we not only get fired from the company but also get fried for eternity.

In the corporate world, if the Boss is out of the country and a co-worker tells you that The Boss called him and gave instructions for you, if you follow him you will not be putting your trust in The Boss but in your co-worker, believing that what he said is true and didn’t maliciously make it up. However, you can verify this by calling The Boss long distance or by other means of communication. More commonly, before The Boss leaves the country he would make it clear who will be in charge during his absence or if he would be giving his future instructions through a certain person.

In the spiritual world, there was no endorsement from The Boss. However, some people claim that they are special representatives or ministers of The Boss, and sadly a lot of people quickly believe them for fear of damnation.

In the corporate world, even if you were so low in the organization that you don’t even know who the Big Boss is, as long as you are receiving your paycheck for doing what your immediate boss tells you, you know that you are working in a real company.

In the spiritual world, the ‘paycheck’ is eternal life – or more precisely, escape from eternal damnation. No one has ever seen this paycheck yet, but the fear of not receiving it at the end of earthly life scares a lot of people into believing and obeying whatever the ‘ministers’ say, including, “Give me your money because it will only weigh down your soul.” innerminds inner minds

26
Aug
09

‘Word of God’ or Hearsay?

Warning: To those who are very sensitive and closed minded about their Religion, please move on to other blogs before I annoy you further. But for those who are wary of falsehood and false prophets, here’s something to think about.

When reading the Holy Books, a lot of us tend to take them as the literal Word of God, written with Divine Inspiration and thus free from human error.

Now when we say that we trust in the Holy Books, does it mean that it is in God whom we trust and that the Books are actually His revelation?

Before we try to answer that, let us first consider a definition of the word revelation:

Revelation: The act of revealing or of making known. In the religious sense, revelation usually means divine revelation. This is meaningless, since revelation can only be revelation in the first instance. For example, if God revealed something to me, that would be a divine revelation to me. If I then told someone else what God told me it would be mere hearsay to the person I tell. If that person believed what I said, they would not be putting their trust in God, but in me, believing what I told them was actually true. (from deism.com)

A lot of us probably have had doubts regarding certain parts of the Holy Books especially those that commission murder and genocide, or even those that demand that we give up reason in favor of blind faith and surrender all our material possessions as they only weigh down our souls. But then we are afraid to question our faith lest we burn in Hell for eternity. Who would gamble such a thing even if it were only remotely true?

But the point is, when we question the Holy Books, are we questioning God’s Word per se, or just the ‘messengers’ – the human writers who claim to be divinely inspired, never mind all the interpreters? There were no printing presses then, and some of the “authors” were probably illiterate, verbally passing on hearsay after hearsay from generation to generation until someone finally puts the ‘Word of God’  into writing. Now we have to presume that all of those story tellers, writers, and translators were also divinely inspired, lest the Holy Books be contaminated with human errors or deliberate rewriting. No wonder there are a number of significant disagreements among the Holy Books. And one of the things they do agree about is in killing the infidels. However, each man’s fellow faithful is for another man an infidel, so they try to kill each other, and to think they were all created by the same God.

So now, some of us might ask, where do we turn to for God’s Word?. My short answer: I don’t know. But I guess it would be better to say that we don’t know rather than to suspend our reason and force ourselves to believe in something unreasonable for fear of eternal fire. And the saddest part of it all is that this fear is based on hearsay to the nth level, probably with certain leaders time and again from past to present manipulating ‘God’s Word’ in order to control and tyrannize their subjects and expand their kingdoms by talking about a Kingdom of God in Heaven while building their own material kingdoms here on Earth. Well I guess that even sadder still is the thought that these subjects believe that what they are hearing are really God’s Word, so they are too terrified to question it.

But I do not think that the same God who gave us intellect and reason would demand that we relinquish these gifts in favor of blind faith, especially if this ‘faith’ is based on a man‘s word  – or many men’s word, if we include all the storytellers, writers, and translators. And so we must use our God-given reason to spot falsehood and false prophets. With reason, we do not need anyone citing any commandment prohibiting murder, rape, theft, kidnaping, assault, or robbery because we already know from common sense that these crimes are considered malum in se – ‘wrong or evil in itself – even if we live in the remotest places where there are no laws punishing them. Now as for malum prohibitum – ‘wrong because prohibited’ – ‘crimes’ like working on the Sabbath and not giving your money to the poor (or the Church), we must ask ourselves, are these ‘laws’ really the Word of God, or were they written by power-hungry leaders who plant the fear of eternal damnation into people’s hearts in order to control their subjects and conquer other nations? innerminds inner minds




Attempts at uncovering the underlying simplicity beneath apparently complex concepts as well as the core complexity within seemingly straightforward issues

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