Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category


MOUNT RUSHMORE, n. An aesthetic disaster in South Dakota. A desecrated mountain bearing the likenesses of four dead politicians chiseled into its flanks–in other words, graffiti tagging taken to its logical extreme. Every year, this unnatural wonder is reverently viewed by hundreds of thousands of camera-toting, polyester-clad Americans, a people who cherish kitsch ugliness as they do the infliction of pain.

(As regards Mr. Tangerine Man’s personality cult, the mass of plague enthusiasts who’ll shortly befoul that formerly beautiful mountain with an orgy of chest-beating and butt-kissing, H.L. Mencken had their number a century ago: “The American people, taking one with another, constitute the most timorous, sniveling, poltroonish, ignominious mob of serfs and goose-steppers ever gathered under one flag in Christendom since the end of the Middle Ages.”)

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–from the revised and expanded edition of The American Heretic’s Dictionary, the 21st-century successor to Ambrose Bierce’s Devil’s Dictionary

American Heretic's Dictionary revised and expanded by Chaz Bufe, front cover


For the last month I’ve been self-isolating, and have been working on a long-neglected project. Since 2014 or 2015, I’ve been intending to expand 20 Reasons to Abandon Christianity (an 8,000-word pamphlet I wrote 20 years ago) to book length, and to increase the number of topics it covers. The purpose of 20 Reasons was to list all of the misery-producing traits of Christianity in one place, and I was pleased with the result when the pamphlet appeared in 2000, but over the years I gradually realized that the topic deserved much more extensive treatment.

With the election of Trump (with his evangelical true-believer base), the project took on more urgency, and now with the onset of the pandemic and consequent self-isolation, I finally have the time and motivation to finish the book.

At the moment I’ve written somewhere north of 30,000 words, and will likely write at least that many more by the time I finish the first draft in, I hope, late May or early June. The following is the first draft of Chapter 11, one of the new chapters. I’ll undoubtedly alter and expand it over the next month or two.

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Christianity has an exceedingly narrow, legalistic view of morality

Everything which is not forbidden is allowed.” – the Lotus Principle (English common law)

Christians have certainly taken that principle to heart: they at least pretend to obey the dictates of the Bible (and their priests, popes, and preachers), while acting as if anything not specifically prohibited – no matter how sleazy, unethical, or outright monstrous – is perfectly fine, precisely because it is not prohibited by what they consider the only moral code: that expounded in the Bible.

They often pretend to keep the Bible’s commands punctiliously (keeping all of these commands would be utterly impossible), and to underline the sacredness of those commands will cite Jesus’s words in Matthew 5:18: “For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” Of course, they only keep those biblical commands they choose to keep, especially those in vogue among their fellow Christians and those most open to public view.

The words of Jesus in Matthew 5:18 sum up Christian morality: follow the law as prescribed in the Bible.

But what a law!

Here are the most prominent prohibitions in the Bible, the Ten Commandments. (This very common list is an abbreviated version of the commands in Exodus 20.)

  1. I am the Lord thy God, thou shalt not have any strange gods before Me.
  2. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.

  3. Thou shalt not make any graven image

  4. Keep holy the Sabbath day.

  5. Honor thy father and mother.

  6. Thou shalt not kill.

  7. Thou shalt not commit adultery.

  8. Thou shalt not steal.

  9. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.

  10. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s goods.

This is a rather minimal set of moral precepts. The first three commandments, presumably considered the most important by their author, speak only to the pettiness of that author. The fourth seems reasonable except that it implies wasting time on religious rites. The fifth also seems reasonable, but does it really merit being a fundamental part of a brief moral code? The sixth is more than reasonable and should be a basic part of any code of morals – and it’s a pity that the Old Testament god repeatedly commanded its followers to violate it. The seventh commandment makes sense to some, but again, should it be a fundamental part of a moral code? Aren’t there other things a bit more important? The eighth is also reasonable and should be part of any code of morals, as should the ninth. And the tenth commandment is simply weird: stealing is already prohibited by the eighth commandment, so why include this thought crime unless part of the author’s purpose was to control the thoughts as well as the actions of believers.

Let’s see what else the Bible prohibits or condemns. (This is far from a complete list of biblical prohibitions/condemnations, and in most cases there are additional Bible verses prohibiting or condemning these things. Almost everything else the Bible condemns or prohibits is equally trivial or absurd as the list that follows.)

  • Working on the sabbath (death penalty). (Exodus 31:14-15, Exodus 35:1-2, Numbers 15:32-36)
  • Worshiping other gods or idols (death penalty). (Deuteronomy 13:6-9, Deuteronomy 17:2-5, Colossians 3:5)
  • Cursing one’s parents (death penalty). (Deuteronomy 17:24)
  • Rebelliousness (death penalty). (Deuteronomy 21:18-21)
  • Witchcraft (death penalty). (Exodus 22:18, Leviticus 20:27)
  • Eating shellfish (an abomination). (Leviticus 11:10-12)
  • Blasphemy (death penalty). (Leviticus 24:14-16)
  • Wearing mixed fabrics. (Leviticus 19:19, Deuteronomy 22:11)
  • And, of course, sacrificing a blemished ox. (Deuteronomy 17:1)

But where the authors of the Bible really get hot and bothered is in their condemnation of sex. The Bible explicitly prohibits or condemns the following:

  • Adultery (an abomination and a death penalty). (abomination: Ezekiel 23:36-37, Leviticus 18:20, 27; death penalty: Leviticus 20:10, Deuteronomy 22:22, Ezekiel 23:45-47)

  • Fornication (death penalty). (Leviticus 21:9; death penalty: Ezekiel 16:35-40)

  • Cross dressing (abomination). (Deuteronomy 22:5)

  • Homosexuality (abomination and death penalty). (abomination: Leviticus 18:22, Leviticus 20:13; death penalty: Leviticus 20:13)

  • Sex with an “unclean” woman (abomination). (Leviticus 18:19, 27)

  • Being a rape victim but not crying out (death penalty). (Deuteronomy 22:23-24)

  • Inability to prove (female) virginity (death penalty). (Deuteronomy 22:13-21)

  • Sex with wife and mother-in-law (death penalty). (Leviticus 20:14)

  • Bestiality (death penalty and abomination). (death penalty: Exodus22:19, Leviticus 20:15; abomination: Leviticus 18: 23, 27)

  All of this begs the question, what doesn’t the Bible prohibit?

  • Slavery. The Bible nowhere condemns it, and in many places condones it, and even includes instructions on how to (mis)treat slaves. (See Chapter 16). And in one notable passage (Exodus 21:20-21) explicitly treats slaves as property.

  • Torture. The Bible not only doesn’t forbid torture anywhere in its nearly 800,000 words — it commands it: a number of passages order believers to not only kill, but to torture transgressors to death by burning or stoning (e.g., Leviticus 20:14, 20:27, 21:9). One might also mention that the Almighty is more than a bit of a sadist, as witnessed by, to choose but two among many examples, its horrific treatment of Job and its mental torture of Abraham

  • Rape. Not only doesn’t the Bible forbid rape, but in many instances God commands it, including child rape. Numbers 31:17-18 provides a “twofer”: in it, God not only orders child rape, but also mass murder.

  • Racism. There is not a single word in the Bible condemning it.

  • (Aggressive) Violence. Nowhere does the Bible condemn physical aggression. Rather, it commands it, over and over again.

  • Coercion. Again, the Bible nowhere condemns coercion. On the contrary, the relationship of God to its “chosen people” is coercive almost in its entirety, and what is slavery (which is implicitly condoned by the Bible) if not the ultimate form of coercion?

  • Cruelty. The Bible nowhere condemns it, and large parts of the Old Testament glory in it.

  • Mass Murder. God explicitly commands it (Hittites, Canaanites, and other victims of the “chosen people” in the “promised land”).

All of this helps to explain why so many Christians behave so abominably toward their fellow humans and other animals. They’ve learned from the example of their “moral” guide, and think that as long as they observe some of the injunctions in the Bible, especially those relating to sex, they’ll be “saved.” Beyond that, they believe they have complete carte blanche to do anything, no matter how cruel or vile. (Here, one can’t help but think of religiously observant mafia members, and of the Catholic Church which is only too happy to welcome them and take their money. One can’t also help but think of the torturers and torture implements employed by the church for centuries during the medieval and Renaissance periods.)

In response, Christian apologists would point out that there are many passages in the New Testament, especially those purporting to be the words of Jesus, prescribing kindness and tolerance. What they don’t point out is that in Matthew 5:18 Jesus specifically endorsed, as “the law,” all of the terrible things cited above, and that he never denounced the horrors of slavery or torture. That there are some good things in the Bible doesn’t excuse the many awful things in it, nor its many grave moral omissions.

It’s not hard to come up with a much better and much shorter list of “commandments.” In fact, The Satanic Temple (whose members have been aptly described as “atheism’s shock troops”) has done so with its Seven Fundamental Tenets:

  1. One should strive to act with compassion and empathy toward all creatures in accordance with reason.
  2. The struggle for justice is an ongoing and necessary pursuit that should prevail over laws and institutions.
  3. One’s body is inviolable, subject to one’s own will alone.
  4. The freedoms of others should be respected, including the freedom to offend. To willfully and unjustly encroach upon the freedoms of another is to forgo one’s own.
  5. Beliefs should conform to one’s best scientific understanding of the world. One should take care never to distort scientific facts to fit one’s beliefs.
  6. People are fallible. If one makes a mistake, one should do one’s best to rectify it and resolve any harm that might have been caused.
  7. Every tenet is a guiding principle designed to inspire nobility in action and thought. The spirit of compassion, wisdom, and justice should always prevail over the written or spoken word.

You decide, which seems a better moral guide, the Ten Commandments or the Seven Fundamental Tenets?

Happy Easter!

Posted: April 12, 2020 in Christianity, Religion


fundie

FUNDAMENTALIST, n. One in whom something is fundamentally wrong — most commonly lack of reasoning ability and vicious intolerance toward those not sharing the fundamentalist’s delusions. Thus, fundamentalists are especially intolerant of those able to draw obvious conclusions from observed facts, those who refuse to seek shelter in comforting falsehoods, and those who wish to lead their own lives.

Members of the fundamentalist subspecies known as “Slack-Jawed Drooling Idiots” have been known to give so much of their income to “electronic churches” that they subsist on Alpo at the end of the month.

In herds, fundamentalists are about as useful to society as wandering bands of baboons brandishing machetes.

The following statements by the Reverend Pat Robertson — prominent televangelist, Christian Coalition honcho, former Republican presidential candidate, blood diamond profiteer (look it up), and close “personal friend” of both corrupt, murderous former Congolese dictator Mobutu Sese Seko and corrupt, murderous former Liberian president and convicted, mass murdering and torturing war criminal Charles Taylor — are perhaps the most revealing illustration of the fundamentalist mentality that this lexicographer has ever seen:

People have immortal spirits with incredible power over elemental things. The way to deal with inanimate matter is to talk to it.

…and…

If you wanted to get America destroyed, if you were a malevolent, evil force and you said, “How can I turn God against America? What can I do to get God mad at the people of America to cause this great land to vomit out the people?” Well, I’d pick five things. I’d begin to have incest. I’d begin to commit adultery wherever possible, all over the country, and sexuality. I’d begin to have them offering up and killing their babies. I’d get them having homosexual relations, and then I’d have them having sex with animals.

And, yes folks, these are actual, direct quotations.

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–from the revised and expanded edition of The American Heretic’s Dictionary, the best modern successor to Ambrose Bierce’s Devil’s Dictionary

American Heretic's Dictionary revised and expanded by Chaz Bufe, front cover

 


Here’s the latest from fundie fanatic Pat Robertson regarding the origins of Covid-19:

“Some of these younguns are doin’ all kinds of unnatural things with their sex organs. When people do that, they transfer all kinds of chemicals from ladies’ private parts and that’s where I think the virus came from. We never had this kind of thing when I was comin’ up. But no one was committing oral sex back then.” (700 Club a few days ago)

It’s good to see that The Rev hasn’t lost his touch. But as enjoyable as this one is, my favorite Robertson quote remains:

“If you wanted to get America destroyed, if you were a malevolent, evil force and you said, “How can I turn God against America? What can I do to get God mad at the people of America to cause this great land to vomit out the people?” Well, I’d pick five things. I’d begin to have incest. I’d begin to commit adultery wherever possible, all over the country, and sexuality. I’d begin to have them offering up and killing their babies. I’d get them having homosexual relations, and then I’d have them having sex with animals.” (San Francisco Examiner, September 7, 1986)

 


The good news is that we’re not out of biz. And if we (See Sharp Press) can survive this, we can survive anything (barely).

We have a couple of really good new books coming up within the next few months (release date depending on the pandemic), Chris Mato Nunpa’s Great Evil, about Christianity the holocaust of Indigenous peoples and the ecosphere, and the Bible; and the conclusion of T.C. Weber’s Sleep State Interrupt anarcho-thriller trilogy, Zero Day Rising.

Beyond that, since I have little else to do in self-quarantine other than tend to my pets/owners — at times an inverted relationship — play music, write music, and work in the garden, I’m pretty safe. According to the CDC, Arizona is one of the states that has widespread community transmission of the coronavirus, so I rarely go out. When I do, I bump doors with my shoulder, and punch screens with a plastic bag between my hand and the screen. I still want my IPA, but hey, I’ll live (or not) if I don’t get it.

As for books and blog posts, Dakota elder Chris Mato Nunpa’s The Great Evil will be out in June; and I’m making huge strides with 24 Reasons to Abandon Christianity — about 30,000 words in at present.

Also, I’m well on my way to recording two music CDs. Between mine, my good bro’s Michael Turner’s, and the ones I wrote with my friends/ex-bandmates Brian Hullfish and Michael Zubay, we have two full CDs+ of original material. We’ll probably use the name Blues Evangelists (spreadin’ the good news of the blues.)

Other than that, I’ll be finishing off the graphic arts work for Al Perry’s new all-instrumental CD., for which Winston Smith did the cover graphic, after a water color by Al. I’m doing everything beyond that, and Al did me the honor of asking me if I’d play second guitar when the CD release finally happens sometime this fall down at Club Congress. Of course I agreed. (Here’s a link to one of Al’s funniest recent tunes, Jukebox Jihad.)

Enough for now. I’ll put up another post within a day or two with a lot of actually useful shit.

It’s going on dawn, and Red is rising. “Red” is the formerly skeletal, now plump, Rhode Island Rhode Red rooster who showed up here last June, and rooted around in my garden for a week or two, until I started feeling sorry for him and started feeding him. The neighbors did, too. He became the neighborhood pet. Dumb as a box of rocks, but still pretty and lively. They’re talking about buying some hens and putting up a hen house in their backyard.

I hope they do it soon.

 

 

 


“Atheism is a religion like abstinence is a sex position.”

–HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher


“At the moment when I saw our beloved father, Stalin, I lost consciousness.”

–Delegate to a 1930s Soviet Communist Party conference



CHRISTMAS, n. A day of mourning set aside to commemorate a disaster which befell mankind, and more especially womankind, two millennia ago.

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–from the revised and expanded edition of The American Heretic’s Dictionary, the 21st-century successor to Ambrose Bierce’s Devil’s Dictionary


Next fall we’ll publish what might well be See Sharp Press’s final nonfiction book, 24 Reasons to Abandon Christianity. Here’s a a season-appropriate reason that will be greatly expanded in final publication.

24. Christianity borrowed its central myths and ceremonies from other ancient religions. The ancient world was rife with tales of virgin births, miracle-working saviors, tripartite gods, gods taking human form, gods arising from the dead, heavens and hells, and days of judgment. In addition to the myths, many of the ceremonies of ancient religions also match those of that syncretic latecomer, Christianity.

To cite but one example (there are many others), consider Mithraism, a Persian religion predating Christianity by centuries. Mithra, the savior of the Mithraic religion and a god who took human form, was born of a virgin; he belonged to the holy trinity, he was a link between heaven and Earth, and he ascended into heaven after his death. His followers believed in heaven and hell, looked forward to a day of judgment, and referred to Mithra as “the Light of the World.” They also practiced baptism and ritual cannibalism—the eating of bread and the drinking of wine to symbolize the eating and drinking of the god’s body and blood. Given all this, Mithra’s birthday should come as no surprise: December 25th; this event was, of course, celebrated by Mithra’s followers at midnight.

Mithraism is but the most striking example of the appearance of these myths and ceremonies prior to the advent of Christianity. They appear—in more scattered form—in many other pre-Christian religions.


All that’s missing is a bio of the Easter Bunny.

(Many thanks to Pamela Sutter, author of May the Farce be with You: A lighthearted Look at why God does not Exist, for taking and sending this photo.)


Recently Rick Ross, one of America’s leading expert on cults and author of Cults Inside Out, who has long performed a major public service via his sites cultnews.net and cultnews.com (probably the best online sources of news and information on cults), addressed the question of whether Donald Trump and his followers constitute a cult. Ross’s conclusion is that no, Trump and his movement do not constitute a cult.

While I share that conclusion, I believe that some of Ross’s specific reasons for reaching it are debatable. For example, “Trump is not an absolute authoritarian ‘cult’ leader like a Jim Jones, Charles Manson or David Koresh. He was democratically elected and is subject to congressional oversight, judicial review by the courts and must run to be reelected. The President of the United States is also constitutionally limited by law to no more than two terms (eight years) as president.” This ignores that Trump wants to be an absolute ruler and is doing everything in his power to destroy the constitutional and institutional limits on his power, and encourages his followers to support him in doing this.

Rather than go over the other points I consider debatable, I’d encourage those who have the time to read Ross’s article before reading the following, which is a lightly edited and slightly expanded version of a post I published last year.

* * *

Alcoholics Anonymous: Cult or Cure? front coverby Chaz Bufe, author of Alcoholics Anonymous: Cult or Cure?

Of late, critics often accuse Donald Trump and his followers of being a cult. The problem is that they seemingly never define what a cult is, never define the characteristics of a cult, and of course never see how well Trump & co. match such characteristics. It’s time to do so.

Before I began writing AA: Cult or Cure?, I spent well over a year on research, much of it involving religious and political cults. I discovered that all cults, whatever their nature — religious, political, commercial (e.g., multi-level marketing scams) — have many characteristics in common. By the end of my research, I had discovered 23 separate characteristics common in cults; some cults exhibit almost all of them.

(Robert Jay Lifton in his groundbreaking and influential Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism lists eight cult-like characteristics; while I included Lifton’s characteristics in the list I compiled, I strongly believe that his book would have been better if he had included more such characteristics — ones I believe are obvious. The same goes for Rick Ross’s discussion of the cultlike aspects of the Trump movement.)

Let’s see how many of the 23 cult characteristics Trump and his followers exhibit:

1) Religious orientation. Are Trump and his followers religiously based? Yes.

Trump’s core followers are conservative evangelicals. He received the votes of 81% of them in the 2016 election, and that level of support remains virtually unchanged. As well, Trump — who’s about as religious, and has about as much knowledge of the Bible, as the average poodle — routinely panders to evangelicals, flattering them endlessly and doing his best to ram through anti-choice, anti-LGBT judges and repressive, religiously inspired laws. Of late, Trump and his followers have even taken to describing him in purely religious, messianic language, as “the chosen one.”

2) Irrationality. Are Trump and his followers irrational, do they discourage skepticism and rational thinking? Emphatically yes.

Trump and his followers are characterized by their ignorance of and contempt for science and rationality. The examples of this are manifold, with climate-change denial being the most obvious and dangerous. Climate scientists — who arrived at their conclusions through massive, decades-long research and application of the scientific method to the data they’ve gathered — are virtually unanimous in the conclusions that climate change is due to human activity (especially the burning of fossil fuels) and that it’s a dire threat to humanity. Trump and his followers irrationally and dangerously deny this.

3) Dogmatism. Are Trump and his followers dogmatic? Yes in the case of Trump’s followers, no as regards Trump himself.

Trump’s most fervent followers, evangelicals, Bible literalists, are by definition dogmatists. They believe (or at least insist that they believe) that a 3,000-year-old book written by Iron Age slaveholders is inerrant, true in every respect. This leads them to insist on absurdities, such as that the Earth is only 6,000 years old; that humans and dinosaurs lived at the same time (or that the devil placed fossils in the earth to mislead humans); that, for that matter, the devil actually exists; that the sun stood still; that a dead man arose after three days and walked out of his tomb . . . The list of dogmatic absurdities goes on and on. In contrast, Trump himself is an amoral opportunist with no apparent beliefs who will say and do anything as long as he thinks it’s in his self-interest to do so.

4) “Chosen People” mentality. Do Trump and his followers have such a mentality? Yes.

Trump’s evangelical supporters routinely and self-flatteringly refer to themselves using terms such as “God’s people,” “the elect,” and “the righteous.” They also consider themselves above other people, especially atheists and muslims, with a great many evangelicals (and other conservative religious folk) saying they would never vote for an atheist or muslim for public office. Trump himself is a very privileged rich kid with a massive sense of entitlement. He was a schoolyard bully as a child; he believes he has the right to grope women — and has bragged about that groping; and seems to abuse almost everyone unfortunate enough to come in contact with him. Only someone who thinks he’s better than other people, who thinks he’s entitled to do such odious things, would do them. One might also mention “American exceptionalism” here, a belief apparently held by almost all of Trump’s followers and, perhaps, by Trump himself.

5) Ideology above all else. Do Trump and his followers elevate their ideology over experience, observation, and logic? Yes, absolutely.

Again, the most obvious example is climate-change denial. But other examples abound, such as the insistence that grossly ineffective abstinence-only sex “education” is the only type that should be taught in public schools; that a few cells the size of a pinhead are, somehow, a “person” (apparently in the same manner that an acorn is an oak tree); that massive tax cuts for the top 1% are somehow good for the bottom 99%; and that America is the land of “equal opportunity” in the face of gross inequality in wealth and income and equally gross inequality in the quality of education for the rich and poor.

6) Separatism. Are Trump and his followers separatists? No.

We might be better off if they were. Instead of being separatists, they want to impose their beliefs on the rest of us through the coercive apparatus of the state.

7) Exclusivity. Do Trump and his followers present themselves as the exclusive holders of the truth. Yes.

Trump has been quite explicit about this. At a VFW convention on July 24, 2018, Trump said, “Just remember, what you are seeing and what you are reading is not what’s happening. Just stick with us . . .” As well, Trump’s core evangelical followers, biblical literalists, by definition consider themselves the exclusive holders of the (religious) truth. (The same holds for his Mormon and conservative Catholic backers.)

8) Special knowledge. Do Trump and his followers claim to have special knowledge that will only be revealed to the initiated? No.

Not unless you count Trump’s for-profit “university” scam, and that would be a stretch.

9) Mind control. Do Trump and his followers employ mind-control techniques? No.

Even Trump’s most hardcore followers don’t employ mind-control techniques such as sleep deprivation, deliberate near-starvation, hypnotic chanting, and thought-stopping techniques (e.g., reciting a mantra over and over again to ward off unwanted thoughts).

10) Thought-stopping techniques. Do Trump and his followers employ thought-stopping language? Not really. 

The childhood indoctrination of Trump’s religious-believer backers (evangelicals, conservative Catholics, Mormons), in which children are routinely warned that doubt comes from the devil (and, from my childhood, that you should pray the rosary to ward off doubt), is as close as you’ll get to thought-stopping language in the Trump movement.

11) Manipulation through guilt. Does Trump manipulate his followers through guilt? No.

Rather, Trump manipulates his followers through fear, hate, bigotry, and scapegoating. His appalling attacks on Mexicans and his fear-mongering about an “invasion” of immigrants is only the most obvious example.

12) The cult of confession. Do Trump and his followers use confession for purification and to tie believers to the movement? No. 

The closest any of Trump’s followers come to this is the practice of conservative Catholics who use that “sacrament” for purification and to tie themselves to the church.

13) A charismatic leader. Is Trump a charismatic leader, and do his followers treat him as one? Clearly, yes. 

I’d use many other terms in place of “charismatic,” but the adoration of the Dear Leader by his glassy-eyed followers is all too obvious. The fact that by their own lights he’s moral garbage matters not a whit to them. Nor do his constant, obvious lies and boasting, frequent self-contradiction, bullying behavior, and shameful self-serving. All too many of Trump’s followers worship him no matter what.

14) Hierarchical, authoritarian structure. Do Trump and his followers belong to a hierarchical, authoritarian structure. Yes, more than one.

First and most obviously, the Republican Party has been on a decades-long crusade to restrict individual rights (notably reproductive and LGBT rights) while simultaneously expanding the wealth and power of the rich and the corporations, and has likewise been on a decades-long crusade to entrench itself in power via gerrymandering and voter suppression — that is to entrench itself in power by destroying what passes for American democracy. As well, Trump’s conservative Catholic and Mormon followers (and to a lesser degree the evangelicals) belong to clearly hierarchical, authoritarian — “thou shalt”; “thou shalt not” — religious structures.

15) Submission of the individual to the “will of God” or God’s appointed representatives. Do Trump and his followers insist on such submission? Yes.

Trump, hypocritically so. But all too many of his followers are sincere in wanting to use the coercive apparatus of the state to force everyone to submit to that “divine will” (as they define it). Trump is only too happy to oblige.

16) Self-absorption. Are Trump and his followers self-absorbed? Yes.

Trump’s narcissism and self-absorption could hardly be more obvious. It’s almost equally so with his Republican Party, with its phony, preening nationalism, and its amoral, ends-justify-the-means mentality that pursues permanent entrenchment in power no matter how foul the means nor how much damage to the country.

17) Dual purposes. Does the Trump movement have dual purposes, are its real purposes other than those it presents to the publicYes, absolutely.

This is very obvious in very many ways. Trump — who received over $400 million from his dad — presents himself as the champion of the working man, yet he’s intent on squeezing money from the poor and working classes, and what’s left of the middle class, and transferring it to the top. He recently gave the largest tax cut in history to (primarily) the top 1%; he opposes raising the federal minimum wage; he opposes labor unions; he and his minions in Congress have partially dismantled Obama’s (grossly inadequate) healthcare plan and have offered nothing to replace it; and he opposes extending Medicare to all Americans, thus ensuring that tens of thousands of poor and working class Americans die from medical neglect annually. All of these things hurt working people, who he pretends to represent.

18) Economic exploitation. Does Trump economically exploit his followers? Yes.

Sometimes directly, as with Trump “University,” more often via government economic and taxation policies which work to the advantage of Trump and his billionaire buddies and against the rest of us. Trump’s tax scam (touted as tax “reform”), which will give close to two trillion dollars to corporations and the top 1% over the next decade, is the most obvious example of this.

19) Deceptive recruiting techniques. Do Trump and his Republican Party use deceptive recruiting techniques. Yes.

In addition to hypocritically presenting himself as the working man’s champion, Trump presents himself as the embodiment of patriotism in order to attract those who fancy themselves patriots. But his “patriotism” is the exact opposite of real patriotism, which is trying to do what’s best for the country and following one’s own conscience, doing what’s right in the face of disdain and abuse. For Trump and his followers, patriotism seems to consist of making a fetish of the flag (instead of honoring what it supposedly stands for), military worship, “patriotic” bumper stickers and hats, and engaging in domination/submission rituals at the beginning of ball games. One might also mention that Trump and other Republicans attempt to appeal to Christian moralists by posing as guardians of morality, when they themselves are moral sewers.

20) Possessiveness. Does the Trump movement go to great lengths to retain members? No.

Cults often go to great lengths to retain members, doing such things as threatening permanent disconnection of family members who leave the cult. Trump doesn’t do this nor does he advocate it.

21) A closed, all-encompassing environment. Has the Trump movement created such an environment? No.

Many cults (e.g., Rajhneeshees, Branch Davidians, People’s Temple, FLDS) set up isolated environments in which they control all aspects of members’ lives. The closest Trump’s followers come to this is having a single primary news source (Fox News for 60% of them) and being immersed in the Facebook echo chamber where they hear almost nothing but views they already agree with. But this is a far, far cry from Jonestown.

22) Millenarianism. Does Trump prophesy the end of the world? No.

The closest he comes is dire warnings about what will happen if the Republicans lose power. But some of his followers, hardcore evangelicals, do prophesy that the end is near and are actively trying to bring it about, to bring about Armageddon (through enthusiastic support of Israeli militarism and expansionism, and encouragement of American military interventionism in the Mideast) so as to usher in “the rapture.” Still, Trump is definitely not a millenarian himself.

23) Violence, coercion, and harassment. Do Trump and his followers engage in or encourage these things? Yes.

Recall Trump’s remarks that some of the murderous neo-Nazis in Charlottesville were “very fine people.” Then recall his attacks on the press as “enemies of the people” and his encouragement of violence against protesters at his rallies. Then recall the huge uptick in racist and anti-semitic violence by his alt-right/neo-Nazi supporters since he took office. Finally, let’s not forget that some of Trump’s “right to life” supporters routinely stalk, harass, threaten, and occasionally bomb or shoot abortion providers.

IN CONCLUSION

So, do Trump and his followers constitute a cult? Many of the cults I studied while researching AA: Cult or Cure? exhibit almost all of the above characteristics: the Moonies 22 out of the 23; the Church of Scientology and People’s Temple 21 of the 23; and Synanon 20 of the 23. In contrast, community-based Alcoholics Anonymous only exhibits 11 of the 23, “institutional” AA  (the 12-step treatment industry, which I dubbed “Cult Lite”) exhibits 16 of the 23, and the Trump movement exhibits 13 of the 23, so it’s not accurate to say that the Trump movement is a full-blown cult, though it does have distinct cult-like tendencies. However, and disturbingly, almost all of the cult-like tendencies exhibited by Trump and his followers are also characteristic of fascist movements.


Is it better to be fucked up by religion than by life? And why is damage so sexy?
If I was going to choose, I’d rather be fucked up by religion. At least that is something I could feasibly escape and still be breathing.

Damage is indicative of vulnerability, which I think always feels a little dangerous. It is evidence that a person can feel deeply, that they can be open … then that delicious wall goes up and we just want to scramble over it and save (and feel) the person. It’s irresistible. I also think damage is a glimpse of something honest, and that’s always attractive.

Interview in The Guardian


Robert Ingersoll

“Infinite punishment is infinite cruelty, endless injustice, immortal meanness. To worship an eternal jailer hardens, debases, and pollutes even the vilest soul. . . . Any man who believes it [the doctrine that hell exists] and has within his breast a decent, throbbing heart, will go insane. A man who believes that doctrine and does not go insane has the heart of a snake and the conscience of a hyena.”

–“The Liberty of Man, Woman and Child”