Sunday, July 29, 2012

An acceptable bigotry

Salon's piece on racism vs. anti-Mormon prejudice misses an important point: It is permissible to insult Mormonism because the religion was invented by a man who was, demonstrably, a con artist.

There are those who would argue that all religion is a con. Most of us would agree that, at one time or another, con men have made evil use of just about any faith system you can name. But I'm talking here about the thing-in-itself; the origin point of Mormonism vs. the origin point of older religions.

Jesus, Buddha and Mohammed may have been con artists. We don't know. They lived long ago. (And yes, all three of them did live. Academic historians agree on that point; most of those arguing otherwise have been populist pseudo-scholars appealing to recovering fundamentalists with minimal educations.) Our records are insufficient and biased, depriving us of a complete picture. They may have been corrupt; they may have been honest but foolish; they may have been mentally ill; they may have been supremely wise; they may have been inspired. From the standpoint of objective history, we can't prove conclusively any of those interpretations -- and so we let faith or prejudice or guesswork or inference do the rest of the job, as our natures dictate.

But Joseph Smith lived in more modern times. In his case, we have an ample amount of truly objective information -- not so much as we might like, perhaps, but enough to make a fair assessment. Fawn Brodie's biography No Man Knows My History leaves no room for doubt: Smith was a liar. Take, for example, the Book of Abraham hoax: Anyone who can rationalize away the evidence that Smith lied stands condemned as a fool. Mormonism has always been a provable fraud, and therefore undeserving of the respect accorded to other religions.

The same, of course, can be said of L. Ron Hubbard's Scientology and of Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church. The inventors of those religions lied constantly, compulsively; they lied even when doing so did not benefit them. What's more, they knew full well that they were liars.

We can't say the same of, say, the Jehovah's Witnesses; all evidence indicates that Charles Taze Russell and Joseph Rutherford genuinely believed in the doctrine they taught. (That doesn't mean they were right, of course.) Similarly, the record indicates that the inventors of modern Wicca -- Gerald Gardner and Alex Sanders -- were sincere individuals, even if they did have a weakness for grandiose self-delusion.

For this reason, it is appropriate to denigrate anyone who adheres to Mormonism, Scientology or the Unification Church. Personally, I would never insult a Jehovah's Witness or a Wiccan. Needless to say, it is never permissible to insult someone else on the basis of race.
Bravo, Joseph!

Some tidbits on these cults: Mormons definitely continue to be a cult. Some of the tell-tale signs are the circles or power. Outsiders are not allowed into even their wedding ceremonies, and the run of the mill Mormons are not allowed to be in the know of the inner circles. The elders are exempt from some of the restrictions that are placed on the lowly in the cult, and they make these decisions specifically in order to assimilate with the public and grow their cult.

Example: Mitt Romney appeared shirtless on the beach during his campaign for Governor of Mass....specifically to counter the public's ridicule of the one-piece Garment the rest of the cult is forced to wear to prevent masturbation.

It was to make the cult appear less wacky and Mittwit appear normal.

A more famous example of morphing to "fit in" is when they decided that the color of black people's skin is not the mark of sin, after all.

They still have not decided that women are more than baby incubators because there is no societal pressure to recognize women as humans instead of chattel.

Money is another way these cults morph from ridiculed to "respectable." I don't buy mylar balloons (Unification Church owns the industry), support the Washington Times (ditto), stay in any Marriott hotel (Mormon) or frequent Staples (ditto).

Moonies used to be the poster children for cult nutjobs. Now the Unification Church has its own news outlet and has given so much money to various
congress critters (Dems included) that they allowed Rev. Moon to have a coronation ceremony in OUR government halls!

We desperately need to push back on this sickening trend to "tolerate" every freak cult, especially since the Scientologists have had laws passed in California to allow the IMPRISONMENT of anyone who "disrespects" their toxic cult, or any "religion."

One recent cult with traceable origins you left out is Christian Scientists. The mother church is in Boston.
Samuel Clemens detested Mary Baker Eddy and that's been on my list to read up on for far too long!
Jehovah's Witnesses are in *breach of the preach*.
Jehovah's Witnesses proselytizing is a false Gospel. (Gal. 1:8)

Straight up doctrinal facts on Jehovah Witness.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses teach preach that Jesus had his return aka second coming October 1914,then they spin all sorts of doctrinal embellishments on that date.
They teach only 144,000 go to heaven,on and on and on with made up man made dogmas……They have infighting,crime and child abuse as bad as any church out there.

Jehovah’s Witnesses promotion of their Watchtower sect has the net effect of stumbling and turning people off to the real Gospel.
Jesus said: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte; and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves” (Matt 23:15)
Danny Haszard born 3rd generation Jehovah's Witness
*Tell the truth don't be afraid*
FMI dannyhaszard(dot)com
"Lie" is an apt description of Gerald Gardner's pretence that the religion he created from putting together bits of this and that with new stuff he made up was in fact ancient. I don't know what he believed, but I reckon he was probably sane enough not to believe his own lies. In other words, he was insincere.

More specifically, the story about the coven in the New Forest, from which he said he learnt about Wicca, did not exist. He made it up. He was a phony and a liar.

Silvio Berlusconi has been described as absolutely sincere. I watched some film of him - shot when he was still dictator - and realised why people say that. He appears genuinely super-charismatic, coming across as a really nice guy, able to tell funny jokes about himself, etc. A brilliant salesman. Doubtless coked-up most of the time, but many salesmen are.

Berlusconi presents as a nice guy even when he's threatening to have a journalist shot. He's that believable. (That was when he was on stage with Putin, another very capable guy but far less well-endowed than Berlusconi with charisma.) If people first start thinking about Berlusconi after watching him on film, they really have to force their intellects to kick in if they want to come to sensible conclusions.

In other news, many rabbis admit they are atheists, and I really doubt that Ratzinger believes all the garbage either.
This comment has been removed by the author.
Danny, I feared that my post would attract a fundamentalist ninny like you. There IS no "true Gospel" -- and before you waste time arguing that such a thing exists, please know that nothing you send me will be printed or even read.

Jackasses like you simply do not know how to read. You think you know what I wrote, but the words that showed up in your brain are not the words I put on screen.

I did not --- NOT NOT NOT -- I did NOT try to initiate an argument as to which religion was "right." As far as I am concerned, they are all wrong, to some degree or another.

My argument was entirely devoted to question of whether the founder of any given faith system INTENTIONALLY lied.

Intentionality is the key.

To be honest, although I think there is a lot of deluded thinking in the realm of religion, the vast majority of it falls under the heading of SELF-delusion. Take, for example, your ridiculous self. In my opinion, whatever you believe to be the "true Gospel" is probably a load of baloney. But I don't think you are an INTENTIONAL liar. You're not a con artist. You're sincere.

The founders of the JW system were sincere. I don't think they were right, but I know that they really believed what they said.

By contrast, I know that L. Ron Hubbard was NOT sincere. I know this because I've read some very good books about Hubbard -- Jon Atacks' "A Piece of Blue Sky" and Miller's "Bare-Faced Messiah" are highly recommended. But even before those books came out, I knew the score. Ted Sturgeon was a friend of my mother's, and he knew Ron before he founded Scientology. I think I was all of eight years old when Sturgeon told me that Hubbard bragged about his intention to start a religion in order to "make a million dollars." (He ended up making considerably more, of course.)

Sorry, but Russell and Rutherford simply belong in a different category.

I know that you are planning right now to fire off a letter informing me about the truth of your "true Gospel." Again: You are wasting your time.
Interesting post. Still, it's worth considering that Buddhist militants have killed more people in the last twenty years than have died in all the Mormon, Scientology and Unification wars put together.
b: I haven't yet read Heselton on Gardner, but I've read bits and pieces about his work. He says that the New Forest coven did exist, and that it was founded by a woman named Rosamund Sabine.

Apparently, this group was an attempt to "resurrect" the alleged witch cult that was at the heart of Margeret Murray's crappy books.

You have to take Gardner in context. Back then, serious people still took Murray seriously.

God knows why. Even when I was young and impressionable, I thought her shit was just ludicrous.

Nevertheless, as recently as the 1980s I frequently ran into people -- feminist women, mostly -- who fanatically believed in Murray's nonsense. And if you voiced any doubts about the Gospel according to St. Margaret, these women would announce that you had been brainwashed by the patriarchy. Yada yada yada.

There are also indications that the New Forest group was into BDSM -- female domination, natch -- and that dear old Gerry got seduced by the spanky-spanky stuff. Eliot Rose's "A Razor for a Goat" talks about this toward the end of the book.

So, yeah, I think a coven of sorts did exist. The women running this coven were all thoroughly deranged by Murray's works, and really believed that they were carrying on the allegedly ancient tradition described in her books. Gardner, like any other subby boy, went along with whatever Mistress told him to say and think.

I confess that I'm inclined to cut Gerry some slack because he was one of the coolest-looking dudes in the history of Weird Religion. I want to cultivate a look like that. Or maybe like Jean Markale. Have you ever seen a picture of Jean Markale...?

Seriously, you do bring up a larger point. Occult groups in the late 19th/early 20th centuries ALWAYS pretended to be part of an ancient tradition. That was just how they rocked. Crowley's A.A. comes to mind. Same with Reuss' OTO. Then there's Blavatsky. And of course, we have our old friend Pierre Plantard. He REALLY caused some trouble...!

Well, I'm not going to get into Plantard in this blog. But we can talk about Crowley. We have Crowley's diaries and letters, and these prove that, deep down, for all of his hoke and shady behavior, "Old Crow" really believed in his teachings. Yeah, he had more than a little of the con artist in his nature. Nevertheless, he was, in his heart, sincere about thelema.

Hubbard had some sincere occult beliefs as well, at least at first. But Dianetics and Scientology were never anything but scams.
Sigh. Jotman, I was not (NOT NOT NOT) talking about which religions are good and which are bad. I was talking about which ones were founded by sincere teachers and which were founded by con artists. Buddha was probably sincere, although we can't know for sure because we have so few records of his life. If his latter-day followers have gone mad -- well, that's a different matter.
I'm just waiting for one of those "Jesus was fictional!" ninnies to show up. It's only 5 a.m. right now. We'll probably get a message from one of those clowns before noon.

There are also ninnies who think Mohammed never existed. Wrong.
Its not just that its Mormonism is recent. Its that it asks us to believe things which are more absurd than usual, even in the generally absurd space that is religious believe.

I discriminate against Mormons because they are clearly idiots for believing what they believe. It may be convenient for them - it may result in very happy lives, but it is still clearly all lies.

So, what's your take on BAHA-I ?
Long time since I looked at this, but if Murray is to blame for Gardner's depiction of the coven as practising in an unbroken tradition, rather than as resurrecting ancient belief, then he must have been quite some subby boy! How did they take his mind off their posh accents?

'Everyone' anywhere near the New Forest 'knows' that 'witchcraft' has been practised around there for a long time, centuries. It's got a much weirder ambience than say Epping Forest. But I'm sceptical that any posh occultist types would have been able to hook up with it, or willing, or welcome.

If you go there, don't miss the village of Minstead, which you can walk to from the Rufus Stone. You'll love the pub sign showing the 'Trusty Servant' - or as Umberto Eco calls it, a hircocervus! :-)

So you don't buy Rufus being sacrificed on Lammas Eve, rather than killed accidentally by a hunting companion?

It was Rufus who first had the castle built at...Gisors!

Yep...Markale...dig the hairstyle...

Agreed, Crowley was sincere, most of the time. His Magick Without Tears shows an understanding of mental development far far more profound than that which is had by 'great' figures in traditionally 'great' universities, such as the one he went to in Cambridge, where the leading professors still worship Malthus and, functionaries that they are, don't have a clue that 'every man and woman is a star'.
"I think I was all of eight years old when Sturgeon told me that Hubbard bragged about his intention to start a religion in order to "make a million dollars." (He ended up making considerably more, of course.)"

Similar story: I know a man who was in a writers' group with Hubbard and he recalled the same statement.

"I'm just waiting for one of those 'Jesus was fictional!' ninnies to show up."

I read a book many years ago that said that Jesus was the sacred mushroom -- no kidding!
Dorothy Clutterbuck (1880-1951), rich alleged coven member in the New Forest - I wonder whether she was related to Major-General Richard Clutterbuck (1917-1998), the Brit army-turned-academic expert on 'counter-terrorism', who was spooked up to the nines? He wrote some right-wing nutter stuff in the 1970s that was similar to material churned out by Robert Moss, all about how the Moscow-paid left wing and trade unions were about to take over the country, unless the vigilant and prepared men of seriousness got their act together to oppose the threat. The market being those who saw little distinction between the Labour Party and the CPSU, between the Guardian and Pravda. Which in the early 1970s was most of the bourgeoisie in Britain. 'Subversion' comes from Jean Ousset...but I mustn't mention Plantard :-)
Barbara: The Mushroom Jesus book you're thinking of would be John Allegro's "The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross." Which I have not yet read. Thanks for the reminder.

As for Hubbard: Apparently, Ron said those words, or similar words, to lots of people. It was a line he commonly used at early SF conventions.

Sturgeon seemed bemused, not resentful, when he recounted the story. He also said that Hubbard was a terrible writer, although he did admire a story called "Fear." I haven't read it.
Regional bigotry is perfectly acceptable and encouraged.
Barbara - there is more to the John Allegro and Jesus mushroom thing.

Before the mushroom book, Allegro was a top Dead Sea Scrolls scholar, the British member of the 'international team'. That was in the 1950s.(1) He was one of the few on the team who wasn't a Catholic priest; he was a Methodist. He wanted stuff published that they didn't.

Then he turns up later pushing the mushroom stuff. Did someone get to him? Maybe he had had enough, wanted to grow his hair long and take whatever hallucinogens were going. Maybe both. I don't know.

Consider the cases of former MI5 officer David Shayler and former politician David Icke. I know Shayler was in the highly spooked-up 7/7 'truth movement', without saying a bloody word about how it was spooked up. If anybody should have known, he should have. But look at him now - thinking he's the Messiah and calling himself 'Dolores' - the poor bloke. His former girlfriend Annie Machon spoke movingly about him, when she said he was a brave man brought to ruin by what he was fighting against.

Other MI5 officers (e.g. Peter Wright) and politicians (e.g. Jonathan Aitken) seem to have taken acid and stayed in the same careers.

The second point is that it is possible that hallucinogens did play a role in the evolution of human consciousness. I don't think its origins have been explained by the 'science' religion, nor do I think they will be, however much money big business puts up to sponsor university chairs in the 'public understanding of science' and in pushing the idea that 'Darwinism explains everything, and anyone who says otherwise is full of it, ner ner nee ner ner' (hello Richard Dawkins).

And we don't have to argue this in terms of hallucinogens. Fungi are a peculiar kingdom, which little is known about. Their evolutionary relationship with mammals is anyone's guess, really. The 'mushroom' is just the sex organ of the individual! I'm not kidding! Check it out! :-) The individual itself is much bigger. Not much is known about how fungi actually evolved at all. There's little or no fossil record.

Third, you gotta consider the publishing industry. Most authors are insincere. I don't know whether this applies to main figures in the field I'm going to mention now, but it may do. This is the field of plant 'perception', and the possible reaction by plants to stimuli perceived 'at a distance'. (I'm not talking about fungi here, which aren't plants.) Some authors in this field have played both sides of the street - straight academic stuff, and wacky stuff. Different markets. Which did they really believe? The former? The latter? Neither? Both? Have a look at this: plant perception (paranormal).

Apologies for the speed at which I've typed all this! A lot more could be said!


(1)The Jordanian army came out of the Arab Legion in the British army, and was British-commanded for several years after Jordan got 'independence', including when Jordanian forces took the West Bank and the Old City of Jerusalem, which was in 1950 or 1951 if memory serves. See Glubb Pasha). I keep meaning to find out how the Brits were got out of the East Jerusalem and the West Bank before the Zionists invaded in 1967. That must be quite a story.
I never considered I had enough information to be sure of first causes or lack thereof so I don't think of myself as an atheist and don't have any hostility to religion per se. So, as a self-appointed expert, a few notes on culthood versus religionhood.....

There are some subtle elements common to what we think of as cults that are distinct from more developed faiths. The division between the two is not a hard line. It is subjective and intuitive and I think that's probably the best that can be done with the concept.

Cults promote an 'us against them' mentality. Cults use a hierarchal secret knowledge/privilege system as Joseph described. Odd practices serve to tie the group together against the outside world. Considering any specific faith, if practice of the doctrine or faith apart from the official doctrinal group is difficult or even pointless, it is almost certainly more cult than religion. The apotheosis of specific persons, places or structures is another indicator, as is an emphasis on creating an in-the-present temporal version of heaven on earth. Huge, expensive, ornate church structures are symbolic of power, not faith, and are meant to intimidate members and non-members alike. Members who self judge themselves as an elite or THE elite of mankind or who otherwise deny universal equality before a deity are practicing cult behavior.

The LDS church scores very high on all these indicators. Baptizing dead Nazis is just icing on the Mormon weirdness cake.
Dwight, I agree with some of what you say. But let's face it -- drawing a distinction between a cult and a religion is a tough problem.

A long time ago, I took what may be the coward's way out and decided to make a distinction based on numbers. A faith with, say, only 10,000 adherents is a cult. By this standard, I would say that Mormonism began as a cult but is one no longer. The same could be said of Wicca. By contrast, people who accept the Book of Urantia as revealed scripture belong to a cult, albeit a relatively benign one.

In Europe, the word "cult" does not have the scary connotation it carries here. One may speak of a cult of the Virgin Mary or the cult of a particular saint or religious figure. Over there, "sect" has a more ominous tone.

At any rate, I did not speak in my post of a hierarchical knowledge system. My post was about the personalities of the founders of various religions -- whether those people were or were not sincere. (Every time I write about religion or sex, people mis-read what I say. I should be used to this by now.)

I see nothing wrong with hierarchy in a faith system, as long as any given adherent has the freedom to leave. Southern Baptists, Roman Catholics and Russian Orthodoxy all have hierarchical systems. I would argue that, of those three examples, the Baptists have by far the most rigid structure. The Catholics like to PRETEND to have a rigid, top-down hierarchy -- and anti-Catholics, for reasons of their own, like to go along with that pretense. But it's all an illusion. There are many Catholicisms (think de Chardin vs. LeFrebvre) -- while Baptist thought is as invariable as the contents of a box of your favorite laundry detergent.

Interestingly, Wicca was hierarchical when it was a cult (as I have defined the term). It began as a initiatory group, similar to various ceremonial magic societies of the time. When it became a religion, it pretty much cast off all semblance of structure. So there's an example that may work in favor of your point.

As for ornate, imposing church architecture: Part of me agrees with your point. But I have personal reasons to favor anything that gives work to artists...!

I think our lives are much enriched by the existence of the Sistine Chapel or St. Basil's Cathedral or the Golden Temple of Amritsar or the Mosque of Cordoba. On the other hand, those ugly, sterile, unlovable "megachurches" could all disappear tomorrow and I wouldn't shed a tear.
Ah, the koran, the 2nd biggest lie in the world. Just wait a couple hundred years after the new testament is written, plagiarize your favorite passages and change messiahs then BADDABOOM you have an ocean of fanatical antisemites and bigots. 61% of the koran is hate writing
to nonmuslims, 19% endorses violence and terror towards those such as christians and jews but it's ok because it's spiritual
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