Archive for the ‘Cults’ Category


Things have been popping in the wild and wacky world of religion recently. Here are a few interesting, horrifying, and amusing things from the last few weeks:

  • Yes, there’s now MormonWikiLeaks, for whistleblowers who want to expose the LDS Church’s secrets. One particularly useful feature of the site (on its front page) is its detailed information on installing and using the Tor browser (for secure, anonymous browsing and communications).
  • Speaking of Mormons, Good4Utah.com reports six members of the horrific cult known as the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (FLDS) reached a plea deal on Wednesday with federal prosecutors over a four-and-a-half-year SNAP (food stamp) scam in which FLDS members defrauded the federal government of over $12 million dollars in SNAP benefits, and handed them over to FLDS leaders who shockingly enough didn’t use them on food. The plea deal let all of the fraudsters skate, without jail time, probation or paying restitution. This might seem unjust, but one can rest assured that, in the land of “equal justice under the law,” the “punishment” would have been the same had the criminals been Muslims or atheists.
  • Truthdig has a good piece titled The Truth About Jesus, which explores the historical background of Jesus and his followers and considers the historicity of the deeds and words attributed to Jesus in the Bible. The piece relies fairly heavily on the work of the Jesus Seminar, a colloquium of over 200 Protestant Bible scholars, mostly employed by religious colleges and seminaries, who undertook in 1985 a multi-year investigation into the historicity of the deeds and words attributed to Jesus. They concluded that only 18% of the statements and 16% of the deeds attributed to Jesus in the Bible had a high likelihood of being historically accurate.
  • “Family values” South Carolina Republican representative and Confederate flag waver Chris Corley was arrested the day after Christmas for first-degree domestic violence. According to the arrest report, he beat his wife on the head and in the face with a closed fist before threatening her with a gun — in front of their eight-year-old daughter, who was recorded on the 911 call pleading, “Just stop Daddy. Just stop…Daddy, why are you doing this?” Earlier in the year, Corley voted to, yes, increase the punishment for domestic violence.
  • In another heartening example of religion inspiring ethical behavior, the Detroit Free Press reports that Eaton Rapids, Michigan resident Kyle Craig was arrested last month for erratic driving, hitting several vehicles, and hit-and-run involving injuries to victims. Why — and do we even need to ask? — did he act so irresponsibly? Craig was powerless — he said that the devil made him do it. The Free Press reports: “Craig said he didn’t get much sleep the night before the crashes because he was reading the Bible, and was ‘sucked right in’ while he was driving.” Craig also thanked God for saving him from injury even though he wasn’t wearing a seat belt. Craig, however, had no explanation for why God didn’t save his victims from injury. (And yes, we know, God moves in mysterious ways — much as a blind, wildly swing swordsman moves through a kindergarten.)
  • Finally, in a story that has no obvious connection to religion, though it certainly seems that it should, Deadspin has published its annual list based on emergency room reports, “What did we get stuck in our rectums last year?” There are some real gems, both figurative and literal, in the list. Enjoy!

“The core belief of Scientology is that you are a spiritual being. L. Ron Hubbard had reached, obviously, the highest level of Scientology there was to reach, promoting this idea that there’s an afterlife, and he found the answer to it by deciding to discard this body to go explore new OT [Operating Thetan] levels. All of this is bullshit. L. Ron Hubbard died of a stroke.”

–Former Scientologist Leah Remini quoted by Jethro Nededog on Business Insider


It’s been a while since we visited the wild, wacky world of religion, but the time has come. Hold onto your hats.

  • We’ll start with a classic organ grinding story. According to The Smoking Gun, Jerry Childress, organist at the Faith Evangelical Presbyterian Church, stuck his penis through a hole in a public bathroom stall “and waited” for a moment of glory from the street sweeper in the next stall. That moment of glory never came, and neither did Childress. The street sweeper wasn’t amused, called the cops, and Childress was subsequently arrested for indecent exposure. And, yes, you’ve already guessed the state in which this incident took place.
  • On a more serious note, according to The Daily Beast, “suicide is now the leading cause of death among 10- to 17-year-olds in Utah.” Could this have anything to do with the Mormon Church’s overt homophobia? In less than three months after the Church ramped up its bigotry last November, declaring that same-sex married Mormons are apostates and that the Church will not baptize their children, 26 Utah LGBT young people committed suicide.
  • In 2014, Kessler Lichtenegger, at the time a vacation Bible school volunteer at the Westside Family Church in Lenexa, Kansas, and now a convicted sex offender, sexually assaulted two under-14 girls on church property. Subsequently, the girls and their families filed suit against the church. On June 15, that Southern Baptist church asked the presiding judge to refuse to allow the lawsuit to proceed unless the underage sex-abuse victims and their families publicly identified themselves. This is yet another example of a church making concrete the words of the Bible: “Suffer the little children.”
  • Last November, members of the Word of Life Christian Church in Chadwicks, New York, including the victims’ mother, father, and half-sister, beat brothers Lucas and Christopher Leonard for 12 hours in the church. They killed Lucas and beat Christopher so badly he had to be hospitalized. The brothers’ “sin”? They wanted to leave the church. In June, their father Bruce Leonard, pleaded guilty to two counts of assault. Why was he allowed to plead guilty to these relatively minor charges? This devout Christian father agreed to provide state’s evidence in the trials of the  other defendants in the case.
  • In another fine example of Christian parenting, Crimesider reports that in 2013 “the parents of a diabetic boy who died from complications related to starvation and neglect waited two hours before calling 911 in 2013 when they found him not breathing.” At the time of his death, 15-year-old Alexandru Radita, of Calgary, weighed 37 pounds. His parents, Emil and Rodica Rodita, have been charged with murder.
  • From the Islamic world, CNN reports that “The leader of a Pakistani Islamic council has proposed a bill that allows husbands to ‘lightly beat’ their wives as a form of discipline. “
  • Not to be outdone, Christian fundamentalist Steve Haymond is, according to Patheos, selling “chastening” instruments, in other words, child-beating sticks.
  • And finally, speaking of assholes, Metro reports that a Turkish imam has been suspended after going to the hospital because of “bleeding in the anus and rectum and foreign object in the rectum.” The “foreign object”? A cucumber.

Religion is truly the gift that keeps on giving, so we’ll put up another of these posts sooner rather than later.


Master(The Master, 2012. Starring Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix, directed by Paul Thomas Anderson)

A few years ago, my GF (a former high ranking Scientologist) and I went to see, with high hopes, “The Master,” the Philip Seymour Hoffman film supposedly about L. Ron Hubbard and the birth of Scientology. (My GF is a “squirrel,” who thinks some of the lower-level Scientology material — basically abreaction “therapy,” a dangerous therapy (similar to “co-counseling”) with no scientific evidence of efficacy — is valid, and that LRH was genuinely insightful and wasn’t a megalomaniacal, pathologically dishonest charlatan.)

Well, to put it mildly, we were disappointed. The primary problems are that this film has essentially no plot, and that both lead characters are simply loathsome. There’s no one to root for, and not even enough structure to allow you to root for a sympathetic character if one existed — and there are none.

The sequence of events (not plot) follows the chance encounters of Phoenix’s intellectually challenged, alcoholic (to be PC about it — “dumbshit” drunk in plain language) character as he intersects with Hoffman’s LRH character in chance encounters in the early 1950s. There is simply nothing to hold this film together, other than than Hoffman’s and Phoenix’s portrayals of these two disgusting characters in familiar (to those who have studied Scientology) locations. Anyone not already familiar with the history of Scientology would be totally lost.

The only positive things to say about the movie are the Hoffman’s performance is great, and that Anderson really got some of the bizarre “training routines” right. Beyond that, it’s a total waste of time. On the way out of the theater, we stopped to chat in the lobby with an older couple. We looked at each other, and the guy asked, “What the hell was that!?”

Very much not recommended.

The two fairly current Scientology documentaries, “Going Clear” and “My Scientology Movie,”  haven’t shown yet in Tucson. If the likely venue (The Loft)  hasn’t been intimidated into not showing them, I’ll review them when they appear.

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What brings this relatively ancient history up is that I have a new musical project — “Enturbulation Blues” — which will consist almost entirely of COS jargon.  If anyone can suggest any especially bizarre terms to incorporate, please leave a comment.

To give you an idea of the tone of “Enturbulation Blues,” here’s a recent song on a somewhat similar topic, Abductee Blues.


We started this blog in July 2013. Since then, we’ve been posting almost daily.

When considering the popularity of the posts, one thing stands out:  in all but a few cases, popularity declines over time.

As well, the readership of this blog has expanded gradually over time, so most readers have never seen what we consider many of our best posts.

So, over the next week or two we’ll put up lists of our best posts from 2014 and 2015 in the categories of atheism, religion, anarchism, humor, politics, music, science fiction, science, skepticism, book and movie reviews, writing, language use, and economics.

We’ve already put up the best posts of 2013. Because there were considerably more posts in 2014 and 2015 than in 2013, we’ll be putting up several posts for those years divided by category. Here’s the first of them, the best 2014 posts on religion and atheism. We hope you  enjoy them.

Atheism

Religion


A few months ago, we ran a series of ten posts on characteristics of religious and political cults. Due to the way this blog is indexed, it’s a bit of a chore for readers to find those posts, and when they do find them (under the “cult” category in the sidebar) they appear in reverse order.

So, for those interested in reading the series, here are links to all ten of the posts:



Alcoholics Anonymous: Cult or Cure? front cover
(This is a slightly revised version of material from Chapter 9 of Alcoholics Anonymous: Cult or Cure? This is the final installment of this series.)

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23. Violence, Coercion, and Harassment.  Coercion is routine in cults. Many cults, such as the People’s Temple and Synanon maintain(ed) goon squads to control their own members; and many, including Synanon, The Peoples Temple, and the Church of the Blood of the Lamb of God, have employed violence and even killings to intimidate and silence critics.  The most famous example of such violence was the 1978 rattlesnake attack on attorney Paul Morantz by members of Synanon’s goon squad. (They placed a rattler with it’s tail cut off in Morantz’s mailbox; it bit him, but he survived.)

Other cults, such as Scientology, utilize legal and (wtihin the law) physical harassment.  The within-the-law physical harassment the Church of Scientology employs involves sending private investigators to follow high profile critics, and members with video cameras to film them. Such harassment is sometimes a 24-hours-a-day affair. But in at least one case, that church has gone beyond lawsuits and within-the-law harassment.  In that case, Church of Scientology members, including very high ranking memvers of the church’s hierarchy, attempted to frame a critic, journalist Paulette Cooper, on felony bomb charges and very nearly succeeded. According to L. Ron Hubbard, Jr. and Bent Corydon (in L. Ron Hubbard: Messiah or Madman?), a Scientology agent who “befriended” Cooper during her ordeal reported to his superiors: “She can’t sleep again . . . she’s talking suicide. Wouldn’t this be great for Scientology!” (p. 170) Fortunately, Cooper escaped the Scientologists’ plot–after years of torment–and several of those responsible for the conspiracy against her were eventually sentenced to prison terms.

But the use of violence against nonbelievers is hardly a new phenomenon. Well over 100 years ago, John Doyle Lee, the Mormon elder who was scapegoated in 1877 for the 1857 massacre of 120 settlers (including many women and children) at Mountain Meadows, Utah, stated, in “Being the Confession of John Doyle Lee,” shortly before his execution:

[T]he people in Utah who professed the Mormon religion were at and for some time before the Mountain Meadows massacre full of wildfire and zeal, anxious to do something to build up the Kingdom of God on earth and waste the enemies of the Mormon religion . . . The killing of Gentiles [non-Mormons] was means of grace and a virtuous deed . . .

The Mormons believed in blood atonement. It is taught by the leaders, and believed by the people, that the Priesthood are inspired and cannot give a wrong order. It is the belief of all that I ever heard talk of these things . . . that the authority that orders is the only responsible party and the Danite [member of the Sons of Dan, the Mormon equivalent of the KGB] who does the killing only an instrument, and commits no wrong . . .

An even older example of the bloodthirstiness of some cults was provided by theologian and papal agent at the Beziers massacre of Albigensian heretics in 1209: “Kill them all. God will easily recognize his own.”