14A051 Cults by Jim Davies, 10/25/2014    


It's fascinating and sad, that human beings will immerse themselves in belief systems that have no basis in reality. Currently the most dangerous is the set of Muslims who get fired up to kill other people and themselves, for the supposed glory of their alleged god; but the anomaly has affected many modern, educated, white Americans as well. Consider some examples.

Government itself is a kind of cult. Huge numbers of people believe in it, and as many as a third of the population may actually vote for it, tens of thousands even die for it and are called heroic; but it has no rational basis. The State is a myth. It's a fiction, consisting only of people who work for it. But the G-Myth has a powerful hold over a huge fraction of humanity.

The cult at Rajneeshpuram had about 7,000 members in residence, all fans of the Indian mystic Rajneesh who taught some beliefs that resonate quite well (he was hostile to all governments, for example) but others which are really bizarre. But the 7,000 were sufficiently well off at entry as to equip him with a fleet of nearly 100 Rolls Royces.

Heaven's Gate was another small cult consisting of ordinary, quite well-off and -educated people, who stuck like limpets to one Marshall Applewhite regardless of family attempts to dislodge them. That was bad enough, but got much worse when he persuaded them all to commit mass suicide in a San Diego mansion in 1997.

One of the largest cults is Jehovah's Witnesses, whom many of us have encountered on the doorstep; as many as nineteen million worldwide adhere. It has some doctrines in common with Christianity, but denies the central one of Jesus' divinity - rather like the Arians and other early heretics, excluded from the mainstream religion at Nicea (see my Which Church (if any)?) They too are formidably difficult to dislodge.

Mormons are perhaps the best-known quasi-Christian cult, with numbers and influence so large as to found their own State (Utah.) The distinguishing source is an alleged revelation to Joseph Smith by the angel Moroni in 1823, presented on gold plates - which inconveniently vanished before anyone else could verify their existence. This very obvious fairy tale is seriously believed, without a shred of proof, by many distinguished people including a recent candidate for US President.

It's no more or less incredible than mainstream Christianity, however; in which another angel told a Jewish girl that she had been miraculously impregnated, to go ahead and marry her fiancé and to give birth - to the incarnate creator of the universe. The boy grew and led a fine moral life, was killed by the Roman government at the request of the Jewish one, but then defied odds of a hundred billion to one by resurrecting. My The Stone Mover examines the deeply flawed evidence that supports that claim. Yet it is central to a religion that claims 2.5 billion adherents.

See also Judaism, from which it's derived; the very first, dogmatic statement holds (Genesis 1:1) that "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." There is not a shred of proof - or even offered evidence! - that time ever "began", or that there was a moment of "creation" or that a "God" either exists or has even been defined.

There are hundreds of others, and whether we call them "cults" or just "religions" depends less on what they are and more on who is doing the naming; a well established religion will demean a small, annoying rival by calling it a cult. But at day's end they all have in common that their beliefs are non-verifiable, non-rational. Non-sense, therefore, literally.

Yet alas, human minds often cling to them like a drowning man to a raft. Just as distraught parents desperately wrestle with a teen wrapped up in one of the smaller cults, believers in mainstream religions like government - and especially Islam - are horribly difficult to prise loose. So how can we rational, market anarchists "bridge" to such folk, whose minds are often quite closed? - to Muslims, especially?

Firstly, by being consistent. It won't do, to ask someone to give up his superstitious belief in government, while we at the very same time hang on to a superstitious belief in some other non-rational world view, some other religion. His hypocrisy detector would go berserk. It's important, habitually to think only in rational and economic terms.

Then secondly: one by one, friend to friend. A friend is a person who cares, and so who is trusted. If a cultist has a friend, to some extent and at some moment he or she will listen when that friend speaks. Certainly, it will still be ineffective at any one time (think again of the teenage cultist resisting his own parents, even) but everyone's receptivity changes over the years and if once in a hundred attempts it does work, that's quite enough.

How so? - because there's no rush. Attract just one friend during a 12-month period to the ideas of liberty presented in TOLFA or a course like it, and an annual doubling results. After 28 such years, every literate American will be so disgusted with government as to decline to work for it. Do the math. Mission accomplished.

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