It’s sad when Extremists are cult-like
Posted: 01 September 2007 12:51 PM   [ Ignore ]
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I guess I’ll share these thoughts here too, but I’m not sure how well it will go over.  I originally posted this on my MySpace Blog.  Mind you, they are just thoughts and nothing more:

I wasn’t going to write on this today, but it seems to me that some religious groups are definitely cult like.

Take my mother and my aunt’s extremist views, for example:

I called to check on my aunt last night to see how she was doing and how the memorial service went for my step cousin, who committed suicide not long ago.  I seriously believe their behaviour contributed to his death, besides his medical issues.

The preacher once again preached on the “Path to Salvation” and my aunt goes on and on as to how they reached the non-religious.  It was all ridiculous, in my opinion, and when I told her the Episcopal Church, without telling her I don’t attend anymore, doesn’t teach that, she asked how to you tell people how they can be saved.  They don’t.  They talk about love, Christ’s love, and alike depending on the point of view they come from, if they discuss it at all.

She could not accept that point of view or how it turns people off to impose her beliefs on others.  I offered her a list of books written by Episcopalians, such as Robert Price and John Shelby Spong, who come very close to my own beliefs.  I may lay some where in between, even so, she said, “I don’t want to read them.  I want to say friends.”

Does this mean if she knew that I was a Humanist and what those views entailed, she would turn her back on me?  Does this mean I would not be family anymore in her view?  Does it mean, in her view, I would not be the “good little girl” she views me to be?

So, much for an opening to my own views and I didn’t really expect her to even get past the first chapters of those books, especially once she read that Price is an atheist and a Humanist and Spong is a non-theist and humanistic.

However, I know how that last, “the good little girl” bit, can make a person sick as they try to overlook their own values and beliefs in favour of approval.  This is not a healthy condition and one has to be themselves or they do become literally sick.  I know this from experience and it took years of therapy to overcome such a pleasing attitude to everyone.  The only person you can please is yourself, in order to stay a healthy individual, autonomous from others.

A friend told me not to expect my relatives to grant me my independence from their views.  Adding that I have to seize it for myself, because it is my life and she is right.  I love her for her great words of wisdom and to me, it doesn’t matter what she labels herself.  I really don’t care, although we share the same views.  We don’t always agree, but that’s alright and that’s the way any relationship should be- on the internet or off the internet.

There are many more words of wisdom I can draw on in this case, even the Gnostic view of the crucifixion, which basically goes like this: All of us are that being. We are all divine and divine power is in us all. What the god incarnate represents is our own very being. In that sense we are all Christ crucified. That being is our own very life and is inhibited through our own limitations. We are the redeemed redeemers. He is what you are trying to discover in yourself. Each individual is the incarnation. The highest manifestation of this is you the individual.

Joseph Campbell describes this view well and thanks to Abraxas, I have part of Campbell’s speech on that on my MySpace page.

How does all of this remind me of the Gnostic view point? Humans, especially the religious, are always finding ways to crucify each other every day. However, to be “a god in the making” as some Gnostics put it, we have to overcome this, strive to be better than that, and realize that we are the only ones who have control over what we do and how we live our lives.

This Gnostic view sounds very humanistic and it is certainly one view I can accept even if there is a religious connotation to it. The thing is, the interpretation of religious texts is totally different and focuses on the human and sees the metaphoric meaning in it all- not literal and I find this definition to be truer than any other I have heard.

It precisely expresses the human condition and what humans do to each other as well as a means to overcome it all. Why can’t we all be gods in the making? It makes sense to me, especially if you think about how much control as to how we react to others who do us harm or are just plain cruel, especially in the name of religion.

Can a Humanist be a Gnostic too?  I don’t know, but it is a view I can appreciate and it does have its origins with the Greeks too, just as Humanism does.  I don’t see them as being in opposition to each other and in my honest opinion, if Price can be a Humanist and still have a love for the Bible; I think I can appreciate the Gnostic view point and apply those thoughts to my own life… Even as a Humanist.

However, my relatives, as well as other Fundamental Evangelical’s behaviours, I find disturbing and it makes me sad that my relatives would turn their backs on a family member all because of religious differences.  It is one of the religious extremists’ cruelties to other human beings and they seem to miss the fact that even the mythological Jesus character associated with others who had their own views on how to live their lives.  It is a good example of how they metaphorically crucify the anointed one (Christ) every day and don’t even realize it nor would admit it if someone pointed it out to them, for they do not believe any of us is “gods in the making”, as Abraxas puts it in his podcasts.  To them, we are not god, but if you think about it, we are gods of our own lives and have control over our lives, not some external Zeus sitting above the clouds judging people and ready to throw lightening bolts at us if we do not meet his approval.

I’ll leave you all with this thought, something that comes to my mind when dogmatic Christians try to impose their beliefs on me:

When an emissary from Zeus came and said, “Just say you’re sorry and he’ll let you go.”

Prometheus said, “I care less than nothing for Zeus. Let him do what he likes. I am not going to renege on the human system of values.”

[ Edited: 01 September 2007 12:54 PM by Mriana ]
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Mriana
“Sometimes in order to see the light, you have to risk the dark.” ~ Iris Hineman (Lois Smith) The Minority Report

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Posted: 01 September 2007 02:57 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Radicals are pretty much by definition cultlike. It’s not just the religious ones: Marxists, radical feminists, hardcore libertarians, and others can act exactly the same. In the sex-pos circle I ran with, we used to joke that if you took the Gospels and search-and-replaced Jesus with Andrea Dworkin, Peter with Ariel Levy, and Judas with Susie Bright, you’d get a standard radical feminist text.

Basically, people on the fringe tend to adopt a social organization called egalitarianism, and defined around internal equality and strong boundedness. The equality thing can easily coexist with leaders, who typically rely on charisma rather than formal authority. Strong boundedness means the group puts a strong boundary between insiders and outsiders. This need not be cultlike: the Amish, the canonical example of egalitarians, encourage their teenage children to leave the group for a year so that they can decide whether to stay or get out.

This structure usually arises out of a system that requires some group solidarity, but can’t enforce it, or prevent people from exiting. Political movements are like that, while political parties have enough power that members who exit lose influence. Because there’s no way of preventing exiting, the group instead relies on a very strong internal sense of solidarity, plus decisions by consensus rather than majority or formal rules. The best contrast here is between the Amish and the Hutterites. The Hutterites have always had communal ownership of property, so members who exited lost what they had; the Amish have had individual ownership, so there are no barriers to exit. So to protect their group cohesion, the Amish have had to cling to 17th century ways of life and base decisions on slow consensus, while the Hutterites have formal rules about community size and successfully use farming technology.

In politics, you see this among smaller groups, which have to adopt egalitarianism because they lack the power to have a formal hierarchy. They can’t really tell their members what to do, so instead they form strong boundedness. The original example is small environmental organizations, with their horror stories of the end of all life. Those stories put off outsiders, but tell insiders that there’s a mortal threat to their existence unless they stick with the group.

In religion, the main difference is between established groups with a church hierarchy and smaller ones without one. The Catholic Church isn’t a cult, the Opus Dei notwithstanding. Neither is the Episcopalian Church. The church that is the most prone to radicalization, the Baptist Church, is also the one with the least formal governance. Not coincidentally, none of the tiny cults you read about, complete with kool-aid and totalitarian leaders, comes from Catholicism, the most hierarchistic denomination.

It’s also true with atheism. Explicitly atheist or secularist groups have no power to prevent exit. Instead, to protect themselves they have to tell their members that they’re being threatened: that Christians are out to get them, that there’s likely to be a fundamentalist takeover, and so on. The notion that atheists are superior to theists is related, but really every group with its own nationalism and narrative tells its members they’re superior. Sam Harris could be leading a party with 40 seats in Congress and he might still tell atheists they’re better than everyone else.

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Posted: 02 September 2007 01:38 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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If you ask me, the Church of God (my relatives’ church) is far, far worse than the Baptist and even more cult-like, but I don’t know if I’d place them as high as the JWs though.  They are the epitimy of the Jesus Camp and what caused me to avoid Evangelical Fundamentalists all these years until my grandmother died recently.  There isn’t a whole lot of choice when it comes to family funerals, although I lucked out going to my step cousin’s memorial.  Because of the close relationship of grandparents, it’s easier to get away from life’s demands and I think I would have to be a pretty cold-hearted person not to have gone to her funeral.

Looking at Fundamgelicals, I can see why atheists feel the religious extremists are out to get them.  I’m not a radical atheist and I can still get pounded hard by them.  I come closer to Bob Prices’s ideas, obviously and it’s probably why I appreciate him so much, but that doesn’t matter to extremists.  If you don’t believe as they do, they are out to convert you and they try extremly (no pun intended) hard to complete that mission.

The interesting thing is, my aunt called me back today after I posted this and apologized for her behaviour.  Then added she would be interested in reading some of the authors that express some of my views.  I was extremely shocked, but you know Robert Price was at the very top of the list, as well as his “Reason Driven Life” book.  LOL  She doesn’t usually apologize when it comes to matters of religion.  I wonder how she will react to Bob’s book, if she does read it, that is It could be very interesting or at least can’t be any worse than what happened last night.

Interesting replacements, BTW.  Not sure who those women are, but it’s still interesting.  You know, if you did replace the deciples with women, it would make the Christ harem even larger.  LOL

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Mriana
“Sometimes in order to see the light, you have to risk the dark.” ~ Iris Hineman (Lois Smith) The Minority Report

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Posted: 02 September 2007 02:54 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Can a Humanist be a Gnostic too?  I don’t know, but it is a view I can appreciate and it does have its origins with the Greeks too, just as Humanism does.  I don’t see them as being in opposition to each other and in my honest opinion, if Price can be a Humanist and still have a love for the Bible; I think I can appreciate the Gnostic view point and apply those thoughts to my own life… Even as a Humanist.

I believe so myself. Actually the word cult is any group that follows a single leader and this single leader has complete control over his or hers followers. If this is true then Christianity is a cult because they follow Jesus the Christ. The Catholics are who follow the Pope. The Mormons are.But the Hitteons never were because they follow no one since the Q’R'Beth taught to break away from leaders and everyone to become independent on themselves. The Hindus aren’t either or the Buddhists. The Jews are and the Muslims are. Wicca is not but the Satanist are. Scientology isn’t but the Moonies are. As for atheist and agnostic who have no religion they are controlled in a way by skeptics whereas they are controlled because of the opinions of the non-believers. So what is a person to do to escape cultism? Be a hermit or recluse shutting yourself away from the rest of the world? I suppose that is why there are hermits and recluse is to escape cultism.


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[ Edited: 03 September 2007 09:46 PM by mckenzievmd ]
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Posted: 02 September 2007 09:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Alon’s analysis of the dynamics of groups is worthwhile, but there is also variation in behavior of individuals in many but not all groups.  One can be a fundamentalist as a Democrat or a Republican, believing everything that defines those parties.  Another can accept some of the philosophy, reject part of it, and be open to change.  The same goes for some denominations.  Other denominations demand complete acceptance of their dogma with the threat of expulsion for any deviation.

Many atheists seem to at about the midpoint - they can handle non-theists, but they demand either conversion or excommunication of agnostics.  Humanists are pretty accepting of a wide variety of individual acceptance, but secular humanists seem a little more restrictive.

Mriana, I don’t know what prompted your aunt to agree to read a book you recommend, but I suggest you pick the one that’s the least challenging to her faith, possibly one of Spong’s earlier works.  Otherwise, she’ll become polarized and reject all your humanistic ideas.

Occam

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Posted: 03 September 2007 02:04 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Yes, I figure Spong, Borg, and maybe Cupitt and Freeman would be some good choices.  Since she prefers essays over whole books right now, I pulled a few of their essays off Beliefnet and Sea of Faith.  Hopefully it is a middle ground we can work with.  I can understand her wanting shorter works for the time being because she just lost her mother and one of her step-sons, not to mention she has no clue what she is getting to, so baby steps maybe the best way to handle it.  I even threw in an interview of Elaine Pagels for another view- the Gnostic one.  I didn’t jump to but one article of Price’s though.  Even so she will have few ideas about the people who attend the Episcopal Church and that they vary from Humanists to Religious Humanists to Progressive Christians to Gnostic and know we some how manage to get along.  In some respects the Episcopal Church is almost as varied as the U.U. anymore.  She still might go off the deep end a bit, but the way I figure it, if she does, it will show that she is still stuck in that infantile thinking that Spong, Borg, Cupitt, Freeman, and Price occassionally talk about.  I’ll just have to remember that and show her a little compassion if she does. I really don’t expect her to go from her supernatural concept of god to Anthony Freeman or Don Cupitt’s “god” of reason, love, and compassion “in Us”, to no god after reading a few essays.  Of course the one I picked of Price’s essays does not say there is no God, but rather it is in his standard style of “Let us sit down and reason together”.

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Posted: 03 September 2007 05:04 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Another caveat — don’t swamp her.  Give her one or two articles at a time, and let her digest them before giving her any more.

Occam

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Posted: 03 September 2007 09:48 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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And don’t forget Sagan. Maybe one of his Gifford lectures? He’s pretty gentle towards believers but still makes a cogent argument.

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Posted: 03 September 2007 09:52 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Sagan?  I never thought about him.  I’ll check out his lectures.

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Mriana
“Sometimes in order to see the light, you have to risk the dark.” ~ Iris Hineman (Lois Smith) The Minority Report

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