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Christianity and religion in general's inherent problems
Posted by: Savernake ()
Date: September 13, 2004 05:29PM

Yellowbeard, I don't think the intention is to replace the cult's beliefs with the majority's beliefs -- it should be to restore the individual to whatever belief system they had before they were indoctrinated into the cult (whoever may correct me in this if I am wrong).

So, if Johnny had been an atheist before joining Cult X, then yes it would be wrong to bring him back as a Christian or Jew. But if he was already Christian, then what's the problem with bringing him back to his original (and presumably less manipulative) beliefs?

I understand the larger point about modern religions having cult-like aspects, and I'm not actually a religious person myself, but the fact is that we believe in the context of the society around us. Thirty years ago, it was considered to be a bit odd to be vegetarian - these days it's a sensible diet for your heart. Similarly prejudice against lesbians and gays was considered acceptable - today such prejudice is much less tolerated. Today affiliating oneself with some sort of mainstream religion is considered very positive while being atheist or agnostic is not - who knows what the mainstream will believe in 30 years?

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Christianity and religion in general's inherent problems
Posted by: YellowBeard ()
Date: September 13, 2004 07:48PM

Claire wrote:

> “I've noticed that often the response of a cult victim is to turn to atheism ...”

If that were the case, I wouldn't have taken the time to make the post on this subject -- the material would be redundant here. I did a search right now on the term 'atheism' and it only showed up in two threads. The first being this very discussion and the next came up under "Hate Groups".

Please direct me to a community of cult victims who have turned to atheism. I'd love to exchange some ideas with them. It'd make for a nice change over being repeatedly lynched by theists when bringing up such issues. Since this is a common occurrence as you've stated, this shouldn't be a difficult task.

> “... an angry, militant form of atheism.”

Perhaps you could quote a specific line of text from my previous post that is angry and militant as you're suggesting here. I'm certainly open to addressing anything I've said that may be irresponsible. To make a credible assertion, it's best to grab a quote and address what's actually being said. I'm more than happy to look into any wrong turns that I may have made in my thinking.

> “In any case, it appears you are taking bible verses out of context, as you accuse others of doing. Sorry this is long, if you look at the entire passage, it is easier to understand.”

What exactly in the entire chapter that you've quoted justifies this behavior:

But as for these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slaughter them before me. (Luke 19:27).

Forgive me, but I must be overlooking it somehow. The directly following verses are:

After He had said these things, He was going on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. (Luke 19:28)

And it came to pass, when he was come nigh to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount called the mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, (Luke 19:29)

So we know Luke 19:27 is Jesus speaking. No Bible scholars claim that this is not the case.

Don't imagine that I came to bring peace to the earth! No, I came to bring a sword. I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. Your enemies will be right in your own household! (Matthew 34-36)

What a scary world we live in when this is considered virtue. People who question religion can't just accept this. This is why rejecting religion is a positive act, and not an “aggressive and militant” act as Claire suggests. Questioning religion lays the foundation of a healthy moral outlook, not one based on "Divine" directives to throw your children into volcanoes.

Claire wrote:

“It is very clear that Annanias and Sephira were free to do what they wished with their property. To keep it or sell it. And they were free to keep all the money if sold.”

Nothing in the chapter suggests that they were free to keep the money if the property was sold. It was stated that they had the right to keep the property if they wished. Evidently the Jesus cult took possession of all the land. To sell property was forbidden because it was no longer theirs to sell. So the Jesus cult came to their home and assassinated them and made an example out of the couple for the entire community to witness.

“Their offense was deception.”

How often in human history have people been assassinated and left as a warning to others for "deception" in and of itself? (There's always a power struggle and/or money attached as we see in this case.) And even if that is the case (deception in and of itself), killing people to teach some kind of moral lesson, is no morality at all -- it's a form of violent cult control.

The only interpretation that makes since to me is that the couple tried to sell their property that became controlled by the Church. The Jesus cult took control of the land, but reassured the people that it was still theirs (in a way to try to prevent rebellions against the seizure of their lands). If any land were to be sold, all the money had to be given over to the Church, which meant that ultimately the Church owned the land and not the individuals.

I haven't noticed any verse that suggests that this is not the case. But even if my interpretation is incorrect, these two people were executed by the Jesus cult for trying to exercise some kind of autonomy. We could argue over the details, but it was an assassination all the same.

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Christianity and religion in general's inherent problems
Posted by: Parrot ()
Date: September 13, 2004 11:43PM


Was Jesus a cult leader? I say yes because I've read the entire Bible and not just selected verses that we're lead to by religious leaders. 95% of the Bible is filled with the most horrific, twisted imaginings the human mind has ever conceived.

Amen to that.


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Christianity and religion in general's inherent problems
Posted by: Claire ()
Date: September 14, 2004 02:18AM

Saversnake: We usually are so busy with our lives we don't stop to realize how much we are influenced by the society(s) around us. There is no courage in leaving one camp for another. Dwelling outside the camp can be lonely. I've always been rather iconoclastic anyway. :lol: After 40 I can afford to be iconoclastic; I'm watching my young teen son eagerly seeking to conform to his peers :cry:

Yellowbeard: Well, if you are looking for an atheistic community you could try Cuba or North Korea. I would warn you though, that you may encounter pockets of underground Christians there. :lol: Now, if you really want to have some fun, get lots of attention and don't mind living dangerously, you could aim the vitrolic at Islam, a truely violent and dangerous cult. I just read this []

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Christianity and religion in general's inherent problems
Posted by: YellowBeard ()
Date: September 14, 2004 02:57AM

Savernake wrote:


if Johnny had been an atheist before joining Cult X, then yes it would be wrong to bring him back as a Christian or Jew. But if he was already Christian, then what's the problem with bringing him back to his original (and presumably less manipulative) beliefs?

A lot of people crash out of one cult just to end up joining a new one. Embracing superstition is what got them into trouble in the first place and has a lot of potential for leading them back.

In my opinion, the most effective way to treat substance abuse is to find out what in a person's life is driving them to find escape (in a self-destructive way) in the first place -- what psychological difficulties are leading to the behavior -- and not just dealing with the physical aspects of addiction alone.

A lot of what tends to happen in the cult recovery process is to merely deal with the unhealthful outward growths of religious belief. I feel this is just like trimming weeds. Pulling the weeds out individually and with the roots is much more work, but has a much more lasting effect.

I feel religion is the root problem. Religion creates the atmosphere that makes becoming submissive and subservient possible in individuals who would normally never consider behaving in such ways.

Religion says shut down critical thought, either through faith or meditation, so that you can reach Salvation or Truth.

Critical thought is based on "the necessity of seeking evidence, closely examining reasoning and assumptions, analyzing basic concepts, and tracing out implications not only of what is said but of what is done as well" (Frost, 1942). Critical thought has existed side by side for thousands of years alongside religious thought, of course religious thought is much older. The scientific method has grown out from this process of critical thought -- and that is what has changed the world to the greatest degree.

We're using computers and the Internet to communicate here, not ESP (extra sensory perception). We travel to other continents on airplanes, not on flying carpets. Critical thought has made all this possible, not religious thought. Without critical thought, we'd be beating each other over the head with clubs and foraging and hunting for our food all day long. Critical thought has made a real, perceptible, undeniable difference in our lives -- religion has not.

Jesus is suppose to be back already, killing everyone but the faithful, ferrying them to some magic kingdom in the sky. I don't see him. He hasn't shown up, yet people believe now more than ever because religion says, "don't think, believe". Why should we sacrifice critical thought for things that show no proof whatsoever when critical thought has given us so much. Critical thought says, "don't believe, find out".

Religion plain and simple doesn't work. It doesn't improve the quality of our life, it doesn't make people more peaceful and kind, it doesn't offer any kind of special insight into the mysteries of life. It just paves the way for exploiters to wreak havoc in our lives.

Religion was a way for primitive man to explain what he didn't understand. How is the world held up? It must be upheld upon the back of a giant turtle. (That was an actual religious belief.) This is really simplistic thinking. It just takes one clumsy step. It doesn't look any further to see what holds the turtle up.

The world is so complex, so amazing. People take a clumsy step forward and say that a super-being must have created us, otherwise how could the marvel of our existence be? This thought is no more developed than the giant turtle theory because if this super-being has created us, what has created it? Common religious thought is that our world is so amazing that someone must have created it. But the super-being would be even more amazing; so surely something must have created it as well if we follow the thinking through. But people are taught not to follow the thinking through. It stops with the turtle, it just floats there -- don't question it, have faith.

So there's an error in our thought when we think that something must have created us (especially now that the process of evolution is apparent). All religion takes silly steps that don't lead anywhere. This type of thinking is to be discouraged because not only does it just stumble in the dark, it leads to very serious troubles (human sacrifice, exploitation of every imaginable sort, cult involvement, war, and all around general insanity).

I feel cult recovery is more than just helping someone break free from the grips of a dangerous cult; I feel it's about teaching that person how to think responsibly as well.

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Christianity and religion in general's inherent problems
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: September 14, 2004 04:19AM

and be religiously committed, too.

Religion itself is not the problem.

It is a the social process of the group that determines whether that group is functioning as a cult, not its belief system or whether it is 'religious'.

There've been non religious cults, not just religious ones. Some are non-religious/political, others are non-religious/psychotherapy/human potential cults.

For a terrific new contribution to the field, I recommend Janja Lalich's book, [i:3101fc3f6a]Bounded Choice: True Believers and Charismatic Cults. [/i:3101fc3f6a]

Lalich sees the process as driven not by the content of a group's belief system but that the members continue to think rationally and reasonably, but within an increasingly narrow menu of choices. Its that shrinking boundary that makes the cult, not the content of its belief system.

Lalich herself was a long time member of a now defunct political cult (the Democratic Worker's Party) and experienced the process from the inside. Her book gives a detailed comparison of her former political cult, which was non-religious, and a quasi-religious cult, the Heaven's Gate/UFO group.

You can find [i:3101fc3f6a]'Bounded Choices' [/i:3101fc3f6a]on -- it may seem an expensive purchase, but its worth every penny.

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Christianity and religion in general's inherent problems
Posted by: YellowBeard ()
Date: September 14, 2004 06:25AM

Corboy wrote:


Lalich sees the process as driven not by the content of a group's belief system but that the members continue to think rationally and reasonably, but within an increasingly narrow menu of choices. Its that shrinking boundary that makes the cult, not the content of its belief system.

What causes this menu of choices to shrink? That should take us a little deeper than simply looking at the issue of religion, which may simply be an outgrowth of a deeper problem. So I'll do a little thinking out loud here.

We look out at the world and are constantly confronted with the unknown. Cults whether they be religious, political, psychotherapeutic, or human potential seem to provide an answer -- and their non-cultic forms as well. What causes the boundaries to shrink into cultic forms?

We shrink away from what we fear. I think the element of fear is being amplified and that's what causes the shrinking of boundaries. The perceived dangers of not taking a certain action -- the horrors that will come about without it and the glory of achieving the great goal will be denied.

The unknown is something to be explored carefully and directly. If we fear the unknown, we look to others that seem to have the answers -- we reach too far over to the other when it's suppose to be more of a balanced relationship (where ideas are bounced back and forth). I think fear is what causes us to over-reach, which destroys ourself along with the person we're looking to for help.

So I think a cultic model of a social institution is one driven excessively with fear.

What causes excessive fear reactions beyond normal, natural ones? Hmmm ...

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Christianity and religion in general's inherent problems
Posted by: Sylvia ()
Date: September 14, 2004 07:40AM


Hey Yellowbeard,

While I agree with your points, especially about religion keeping people subservient, submissive, and unquestioning, I must point out that people believe their religious (and other) beliefs because they make them feel safe.

The whole idea of salvation is to save people’s souls from eternal damnation. Considering how many people were raised with a belief in heaven or hell, and original sin, it is not surprising that they would feel unsafe without their belief in a ‘savior’ and that they will be ‘saved’ only if they continue believing and behaving according to what they have been taught. Who wants to go to hell, after all?

When a previously Christian person leaves a cult or other belief system they need to have some kind of spiritual belief that will help them feel comfortable enough to leave the ‘cult’. Relatively speaking, a long-established religion is usually less abusive and mind damaging than the newer cults because the ‘doctrine’ has been changed enough over time to make it less strict and abusive. This is generalizing, I know. However, in some ways larger groups aren’t quite as strict about attendance at church and other activities. Usually a church goer can get away with not attending church every Sunday if they need to do something else, like rest! Other people might notice and ask why they weren’t in attendance, but the person can usually come up with some good excuse to put the other person off and at the same time not feel like a big sinner.

I think people need the idea of a ‘Savior’ because it helps them deal with all of the guilt they feel - when and if they feel it. Addictions and personality disorders are ways that help people not feel guilt or shame about their hurtful behaviors. So, I can see how ‘confession’ and ‘repentance’ is a release from that guilt. The person ‘fesses up’ to the priest or minister, they get some consequences and do penance, and then they can go on with living without feeling like a bad, hopeless, unsaved person - until they ‘sin’ again and have to go ‘confess’ again. It also gives them HOPE that all will be well in the end - as in when they or someone they care about becomes ill or dies.

I like Twelve Step programs. They use they same basic system, but the ‘confession’ is to the group and only ‘God, as we understand him’ or the ‘Higher Power’ is involved with the ‘forgiveness’ of the person’s hurtful behavior. The forgiveness doesn’t have to come through a priest or minister - who might be one of the biggest sinners in the ‘church’ or ‘cult’. As you can read here, even psychotherapists can start their own cults.

It is hard emotionally for people to jump straight to atheism. Giving up the ‘savior’ safety net is something that few people will really do. They may do it for a while, but when the chips are down and they become ill or they have some other life threatening emergency they will start praying for help. I have reached the point gradually over the years that I hardly believe anything. It has taken me about twenty-five years. I gave up my former church. I did a lot of research and my beliefs at this point are a lot like yours. However, sometimes when life gets tough for me or someone I know I find myself hoping that something out there can help with the situation.

Religion and anti-religion are two sides of the same coin. Getting onto the anti-religion side pits us against a large majority and it can get pretty lonely. I don’t very often fight the religion side. We all need some kind of belief system and it would be totally hypocritical to say that I don’t have one.

Fighting against other people’s beliefs is kind of useless and can damage relationships. It can also be totally exhausting. There are only so many hours in a day. But, there are still a lot of people around looking for a new belief system and it is nice to get together with other people with similar interests. Hey, we are probably all wrong in one way or another. It’s all a big mystery. I try to follow the Golden Rule. And I mean try. When I blow it I have to admit it and apologize, or make amends as they say in Twelve Step groups.

You might be interested in another interpretation of the ‘Ananias and Sephira’ story. This information is from the book, ‘The Templar Revelation’, by Linn Picknett and Clive Prince. Here it is in a nutshell. The Jesus group and others at the time considered people in the group, who had been ‘born again’ through baptism, etc. as ‘the living’ and people who had not been baptised into the group as ‘the dead’. So, since A. and S. lied about not giving the group ALL of the money from the sale of their land they were called in and told that they were now ‘dead’ in the group’s eyes. They were NOT killed literally, but they were shunned, and were considered no longer ‘saved’. When it says that they ‘breathed their last’ or ‘expired’ it means that they breathed their last breath as a ‘living’ person in the group. So Jesus said, ‘Let the ‘dead’ bury the ‘dead’. None of them were literally dead, just ‘spiritually’ dead. They were still an example to the rest of the people in the group that lying would get them kicked out, which of course meant that they were no longer ‘saved’. Yes, even back then they used their own coded terminology or jargon to distinguish themselves from ‘outsiders’.



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Christianity and religion in general's inherent problems
Posted by: Claire ()
Date: September 14, 2004 08:24AM

Scientists and other academics, generally atheistic groups also have their gurus, dogma, methodology to keep the rank and file in line, excommunication rites and other cultic practices.

Abuse, exploitation, control and all sorts of nasty things occur in every belief system, including the belief system that claims there is a lack of one. These are not practices that disappear by eliminating the belief system, because they are human practices.

And wonder of wonders :idea: These things occur in cult recovery communities also :evil:

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Christianity and religion in general's inherent problems
Posted by: YellowBeard ()
Date: September 15, 2004 07:30AM

Corboy wrote:


Its possible to think responsibly and be religiously committed, too.

This is a true statement. So I explored a bit to try to get an idea on what causes our menu of choices to shrink (assuming the menu shrinking theory is more or less accurate -- it sounds good, so I'm working with it until I run into, or think of a better model). I tried to take a deeper look into the emotional aspects that drive us. A few sound views arose, but ultimately it just petered out into some wispy circular thinking.

So I'm looking back at Corboy's original statement here. We all know people who are religiously minded who think and act responsibly as well. So we can't deny this. After all, I'm looking for the truth of the matter and not just trying to bolster my opinions.

But if we look closer at this statement, it's not an all or nothing statement like I originally interpreted it as. It's not like an on or off switch -- it's either on, or it's off, no in-between. There's more depth there than that.

One isn't either religiously committed or not. It comes in degrees. Now does the degree of religious commitment play a part in relation to thinking responsibly? I'm thinking yes. It seems that the more one is religiously committed, the more irrational they become.

Now think about this seriously. Aren't all the people we know that hold religious beliefs who are sane, responsible people -- don't they all share one thing in common -- they're relaxed about their beliefs. I'd be tempted to say that they don't take them all too seriously. And those who do take the beliefs seriously, they become irrational, or we could describe it as their menu of choices shrink.

What about the psychotherapy, political, and human potential cults? I don't know why I didn't think about this before, but isn't it religious elements that make these groups cultic as well? Sometimes directly (like when New Age ideas work their way in) and sometimes not. What I mean by not directly, is that religious beliefs themselves is not what's being used, but instead the religious model is. The religious model is that you are lesser than someone or something else, and you must subjugate yourself unto the higher person or ideal to find perfection (or at least significant improvement).

In Eastern religion, you subjugate your ego unto the higher Self or to a more naturalistic model, the Tao. In Western religion you give yourself to a representative of God (such as Jesus) or directly to God. It's all about self-surrender; all religion, in one way or another.

A human potential group becomes cultic when the religious model moves in and we surrender ourselves unto the leader or ideal. The same with psychotherapy and political cults.

But of course the religious cult is by far the most prevalent type of cult because the religious model is already built in, it doesn't have to be imported. It's like a bomb all ready to go, you don't have to built it.

A little off track here, but related. Genital mutilation is a wild, barbaric religious practice that is still used today. Female circumcision in Muslim countries, and male circumcision in Judeo-Christian countries. When the grip of religion is tight on these cultures, the medical establishments support the practices. Where the grip of religion is loosening, the medical community starts to speak against such practices.

In Judeo-Christian culture, the medical establishment would say that circumcision is ok because it helps prevent infection. But this is insane because a little soap and water does the trick just fine -- preventing infection with cutlery is no different than cutting off the external parts of your ear to prevent an ear infection.

Now only religion could lead people so astray as to come to such a conclusion. It was a religious practice, and when a doctor takes his faith seriously, they can't question the practice -- they look for a justification (and that's where we got the whole preventing infection thing).

Today people tend to take religion less seriously, so the medical community is able to question such practices and circumcision is generally no longer encouraged -- although religious parents like to have it done still. (They should make the parents watch though, so that they can see exactly what they're doing.)

Religion is the death of thinking, it's what causes our menu of options to shrink more than any other factor. Just open up any religious text and watch your mind shut down.

If religion is a poison, if it destroys everything it touches, then shouldn't we make little efforts in our own ways to try to loosen its restraints on ourselves and the people around us.

I think religion is hardwired into us (the religious model, not the actual beliefs that take shape) just as aggression is. It's part of our past. Leftover things from the process of evolution. And contrary to creationism, we ARE evolving and we need to throw away the old stuff that just doesn't work anymore.

Right now people from all over the world can exchange ideas across the globe nearly instantly on message boards and such. If you don't think that's evolution, you better think again. Our bodies may have stopped evolving, but not our minds. Look at the world around you -- it's becoming more and more complex, sophisticated, refined. Mental evolution on steroids -- compliments of scientific thought. But the scientific method is an outgrowth of evolution, and not an end in itself. Perhaps in time, a more refined system of thought will come along.

Moral thought evolves as well, believe it or not. Throwing kids into volcanoes used to be fine and swell. Now we just mutilate their genitalia in the name of God. Horrific still, but getting better.

There's no need to self-surrender to anything. That's the religious model, and it doesn't work. The process of evolution says throw out what doesn't work. So let's throw it out and good riddance!

Without religion we're forced to deal with the fact that only WE can make a difference in our lives, not some super-being creator, daddy in the sky. We're all we've got, so naturally we have to be a little nicer to each other. Can't hack your neighbor up with a machete -- you need them because there's no God to take care of you. We have to all depend on each other.

Someone might say here, "well YellowBeard, you're looking at the process of evolution as a type of religion -- sounds like just another belief system".

It's not a belief because not only do I see the effects of evolution, so do you, and so does everyone else, and no one can stop it no matter how hard they want to believe in Creationism. And that how we know if something is real or just a belief -- a faith. If I saw Jesus floating around through the sky, and you saw Jesus, and everyone saw Jesus, then Christianity would be the fact of our existence. And the same goes for anything and everything.

No one believed in evolution several thousands of years ago. Nevertheless it worked all the same -- it worked when there were only animals and lesser life on the planet, it worked when there wasn't even life on the planet as we know it.

That's what a fact is. It exists without any need to be recognized whatsoever. Some readers can believe in Creationism till they turn blue in the face, but evolution will continue all the same regardless.

Some might be tempted to say, "there must be a divine force behind this process of evolution". But when we do that, the idea cuts off all exploratory thought. Like reading Bible passages, it turns the mind to mush.

The universe is the most fascinating thing there is and it's right in front of us to explore. When religious thought is out of the way, we're forced to look at it with an open mind -- then we can truly learn and grow. Reality is so much more fascinating and miraculous than fantasy (aka religion).

Religion wants to package everything into neat little boxes -- it offers explanations for everything, even for all of our actions (with Astrology). But facing reality is expansive -- it opens up the mind, allowing consciousness to flower. And there's no room for little boxes and pseudoscience when that happens.

I'd like to sum up with saying that religion is contractive and stifling, while facing reality directly without holding onto beliefs is expansive and enlivening. So it's up to you as to how you want to live your life, and it's up to you as to what you choose to share with others. Will you offer them the restraints of religious thinking, or will you teach them how to face reality without trying to hold a pattern of beliefs up over it? It's like looking up at the sky. Are you going to hold up some cardboard cutout image of your daddy over that amazing expansive sky, or can you put it down and just look?

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