Archive for the ‘Christianity’ Category


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.

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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.


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”


(The following is a repost of a piece we ran a year ago.)

Chris Mato Nunpaby Chris Mato Nunpa, PhD
retired professor of History at Southwest Minnesota State University and author of the upcoming (January 2020) The Great Evil: Genocide, the Bible, and the Indigenous People of the United States

Back in October of 1947, I entered first grade at the Granite Falls Public Schools, Granite Falls, Minnesota, USA. This is when I first heard about a man named Christopher Columbus. As far as I can remember, I never heard my father or mother mention this person. When one of my teachers talked about Columbus, she taught us a poem which began, “In fourteen hundred ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.” This is a line that I have remembered, now that I am 78 “winters” on. The teacher taught us that Columbus “discovered” America. The second thing I remember is a picture of Columbus on the shore with a cross. In my mind, I thought, “Columbus must be a Christian. So, he must be a good man.” The Christian missionaries had taught us Dakota children, in the late 1940s, that Christians are good people because they are serving God, and that the cross was good and sacred. The white man’s educational system did, and does, very efficient teaching, or indoctrination, or brainwashing, along with help from his religious theology system, and the missionaries.

Later, as I grew up and became educated, I discovered that the things which I heard and learned not only in first grade in 1947, but also in the other grades up to 1959 when I graduated from high school, were mostly lies. Columbus DID NOT DISCOVER America, and that there were approximately 16 million, if not more, Indigenous Peoples already here in the continental United States. Columbus may have been the first western-European to make it to the Americas and even there, there is some debate about that. The other thing I learned was that Columbus was a bad man, a very bad man – that he and his soldiers killed millions of our Native Peoples on the islands of the Caribbean Sea. Columbus was a Genocidaire, a perpetrator of Genocide. This Genocide of the Native Peoples began what I call “The Great Evil,” which I discuss at length in my book of the same name, The Great Evil (Wosice Tanka Kin): Genocide, the Bible, and the Indigenous Peoples of the United States, to be published in September 2019.

Let me provide an incident which illustrates the cruelty and brutality of Columbus and his soldiers. In the course of Columbus’ making of war, what the Spanish called “pacification” to describe their campaign of terror and killing against the Indigenous peoples of the Caribbean. Las Casas, a Catholic missionary, witnessed an event. And I quote:

Spaniards found pleasure in inventing all kinds of odd cruelties, the more cruel the better, with which to spill blood. They built a long gibbet, low enough for the toes to touch the ground and prevent strangling, and hanged thirteen natives at a time in honor of Christ our Saviour and the twelve Apostles.

Note that Las Casas mentions that the Spaniards hanged and killed thirteen Native Peoples at a time “in honor of Christ out Saviour and the twelve Apostles.” In the upcoming book, The Great Evil (for January 2020 release), I’ll provide many specific Bible verses that were quoted by the killers of Indigenous Peoples in hundreds upon hundreds of genocidal massacres in the first four centuries the invaders, stealers, killers, and destroyers were here — the 1500s, the 1600s, the 1700s, and the 1800s.

Here are a few of the genocidal actions that were perpetrated against the First Nations Peoples of the Caribbean: using “ferocious dogs that had been trained to kill and disembowel”; Columbus’ troops “went wild, stealing, killing, raping, and torturing natives”; “would test their swords and their manly strength” on captured Indigenous Peoples by “slicing off of heads or the cutting of bodies in half with one blow”; “cutting off of hands” of Native Peoples if they did not bring in their quota of gold; tearing “babes from their mother’s breast by their feet, and dashed their heads against the rocks” (see Psalms 137:9, KJV); the soldiers would “rip open the bellies, to cut and kill those lambs – men, women, children, and old folk”; etc. In twenty-one years, 8 million Indigenous Peoples “had been killed by violence, disease, and despair” (compare with the more than the 6 million Jews killed by Hitler and his Nazis in WWII. These examples and information can be found in David Stannard’s book American Holocaust (1992, pp. x, & 69-72).

Let me quote a few comments from Dr. Ward Churchill:

As a symbol, Christopher Columbus vastly transcends himself. He stands before the bar of history and humanity, culpable not only for his deeds on Española, but, in spirit at least, for the carnage and cultural obliteration which attended the conquest of Mexico and Peru during the 1500s. He stands as exemplar of the massacre of Pequots at Mystic in 1637 . . . His spirit informed the policies of John Evans and John Chivington as they set out to exterminate the Cheyennes in Colorado during 1864, and it rode with the 7th U.S. Cavalry to Wounded Knee in December of 1890 . . . .  (A Little Matter of Genocide p. 92)

The arrival of Columbus began the period of “The Great Evil,” or Wosice Tanka Kin (a Dakota phrase), which has lasted for the past 526 years. In that period, 16 million people have been murdered in the continental United States, and anywhere from 110 to 125 million slaughtered in the Americas primarily by U.S. Euro-Americans and western Euro-Americans. Stannard writes, “The destruction of the Indians of the Americas was, far and away, the most massive act of genocide in the history of the world (Stannard, American Holocaust, p. x).

Columbus was an evil man.


We hit 100,000 views last week, and we’re using that as an excuse to list the best posts we’ve published, divided by category. Part 1 covered Addictions, Anarchism, Atheism, Baseball, and Capitalism; Part 2 covered Civil Liberties, Economics, Gardening, Interviews, and Journalism; and Part 3 covered jokes. Since there are well over 500 posts in the Humor category (out of 1,500 total), we’ll be doing at least one or two more best-of Humor lists. Here are the best 70 or so posts mocking religion:

Religious Humor/Mockery


Christians, especially evangelicals and other conservative Christians, like to pat themselves on the back by bragging about how moral they are (and by extension how everyone else is less moral). This Christian boast is obviously false, and many writers have debunked it. But today there’s no need for words. The following two maps tell the story:

THE BIBLE BELT

 

RACIALLY MOTIVATED LYNCHINGS IN THE UNITED STATES

Note the almost exact correspondence. Christian mobs committed the exceptionally vicious crime of lynching thousands of times.

So much for Christianity instilling moral behavior.

 


PM Press just published my latest book, Godless: 150 Years of Disbelief, which I compiled/edited. Here’s their description of the book:
Godless is a compilation of wide-ranging texts, both hilarious and horrifying, on atheism, belief, and religion. The selections in the book appeared in various formats from the late nineteenth century through the early twenty-first, and their authors were often active in the anarchist, Marxist, or radical leftist movements of their day. Derived from printed pamphlets, books by small publishers, and essays that appeared in widely distributed newspapers, these texts serve as freethinking propaganda in a media war against morbid authoritarian doctrines.
With both a sophisticated analysis of inconsistencies in deistic beliefs and a biting satirical edge, Godless gives ammunition to those fighting fundamentalist bigotry—and more than a few reasons to abandon Christianity.
Readers previously familiar with the authors’ political polemics will be rewarded in contemplating another side of their remarkable literary output. Contributors include Emma Goldman, Ambrose Bierce, Chaz Bufe, E. Haldeman-Julius, Earl Lee, Johann Most, Joseph McCabe, Matilda Gage, Pamela Sutter, S.C. Hitchcock, and Sébastien Faure.

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PM is offering a 50% discount on Godless (with the coupon code JULY) until July 31.

And speaking of 50% discounts, See Sharp Press’s 50% off sale on all books (and even greater discounts on our anarchist and atheist pamphlet collections) continues, but will end this coming Sunday, July 31.


Our newest title, Venezuelan Anarchism: The History of a Movement, by Rodolfo Montes de Oca, is now available. It should be of major interest to those interested in anarchist history and also to those interested in the history of Venezuela. Both Venezuelan Anarchism and our previous Venezuela title, Venezuela: Revolution as Spectacle, by Rafael Uzcátegui, provide essential background information for anyone who wants to understand the current political situation in that tortured land. Daniel Baret, author of Los sediciosos despertares de la Anarquia (Anarchy’s Seditious Awakenings) has this to say of the book:

“Rodolfo Montes de Oca has unearthed an unknown history. He shows the arc of Venezuelan anarchism from its most distant antecedents to the contemporary. It’s an ambitious examination that can only be compared to Frank Fernández’s Cuban Anarchism: The History of a Movement.”

We just sent the files to the printer for advance review copies of our September title, Death Wins All Wars, Daniel Holland’s memoir of draft resistance, organizing, and protest during the Viet Nam war.

R.M. Ryan, the author of There’s a Man with a Gun Over There, says this of the book: “Daniel Holland’s memoir of his days as a draft resister in the late 1960s offers a step-by-step account of ordinary bravery in the face of unconscionable lies by the US government. Men like Holland faced prison sentences as the price of their resistance. Filled with an improbable combination of sweetness, good humor, and fear, Holland’s story reads like a letter from the front lines of the anti-war movement.”

Paul Krassner, legendary Yippee activist and editor of The Realist, has this to say: “The absurdity of today’s political and ideological world demands Resistance. The way Daniel Holland responded to the absurdity of the Sixties may well provide a guidepost. Travel with him now to the past and see what the future may bring.”

We’re currently at work on our other Fall book, Chris Mato Nunpa’s The Great Evil: Christianity, the Bible, and the Native American Genocide. This book pulls back the veils on a nearly unknown and shocking chapter in American history. We’ll be sending off the files for advance copies within the month, and we’ll release the book in September. This will be the last book we’ll release this year. (Once that book is out, health permitting, I hope to begin regularly posting here once again in the usual areas: politics, religion, atheism, music, humor, sci-fi book reviews, and anything else that seems of interest.)

Next year, we’ll release T.C. Weber’s Zero Day Rising, the final book in T.C.’s well crafted political sci-fi/near-future thriller “Sleep State Interrupt” trilogy, plus, just possibly the as-yet-untitled sequel to one of our other sci-fi titles, Zeke Teflon’s Free Radicals: A Novel of Utopia and Dystopia, and a nonfiction book, 24 Reasons to Abandon Christianity, a greatly expanded version of my e-book 20 Reasons to Abandon Christianity. (Free html version of 20 Reasons here.)

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