Moderate believers in Christianity seem collectively embarrassed by the so called fringe elements who have declared May 21, 2011 to be the start of the rapture. They seek to make a distinction between themselves and the rapturists, but, if there is a distinction, it’s lost on those of us who do not share belief in the Christian religion.
That anyone believes in the “end times” or a particular day for the “end times” is merely an order of magnitude without significance. Does it matter that May 21 will pass as any other day in the last 2011 or so years? Does it ever occur to the believers in the faith that their Jesus promised to return during the lifetime of his followers? As in, the ones who allegedly and literally followed him around?
The rapture is about 2000 years late, and I’m thinking that it’s time people stopped putting any stock in the claim that it was going to happen at all.
The faith is predicated on a threat to behave and worship or else suffer the consequences – all other claims are merely details – that there’s been over 200 claims in the last couple of centuries to reveal the beginning of the end times and not a one has come to pass is less significant than that people believe that is an end of time, a reckoning coming, in which the believer good will be rewarded and the unbelieving bad (no matter how good they were in fact) will each get theirs, shows the childishness and the danger of the religion.
There is no god who will clean up the earth and make it into a paradise – we messed it up and we have to fix it – and that starts with growing up and putting away childish things like Santa, the tooth fairy and gods.
What we need to consider is that the only difference between a cult and a religion, is a false perception based on the age and size of the cult – if it began in antiquity and has endured in some form, it’s a religion, but if it’s recently founded as something new or as a breakaway group, it’s a cult.
There is no meaningful difference between a religion and a cult; there is only the matter of how carefully or tightly controlled the membership is by the leadership or hierarchy.
A group that isolates itself from the larger community geographically and in daily life – Jim Jones’ People’s Temple for example – is not that different from one that remains in the larger community geographically, but isolates itself from mainstream participation – consider that most American children who are home schooled are evangelical protestants – are not substantially different.
Each dedicates their daily existence in accordance with the wishes of the belief leadership – and, for many years, Jim Jones was a politicians’ darling in that he could be counted on to deliver instant crowds at rally’s, tens of thousands of near identical letters in boycotts of advertisers or support on a political matter to state legislature.
The same give and take that exists between the tea baggers/evangelical leaders and politicians today. Give me the support and your votes, and I will deliver the power of my office unto you.
The insistence of evangelical and other religious leaders that natural disasters and disease epidemics are a deity’s punishment for immoral behavior should be alarming and unacceptable to any moderate and rational person. To assert divine cause to natural disasters, including epidemics, is to reject not only all earth sciences and germ theory, but the entire body of knowledge that we humans have accumulated.
To praise deities is to reduce and reject humanity into meaninglessness; this is why religion is the goto justification for the horrors that we have inflicted on ourselves and each other. I categorically reject the idea that we’d find another rational, because there is nothing rational about slavery and genocide against groups and classes of people, or about murder, rape and assault of individuals.
If we, each of us, were to truly accept that we are human, that humans are natural and innately valuable, then there is no way we could justify diminishing another person as lesser than ourselves. It takes religion to create in the mind, the self loathing, hatred and violence to be twisted against fellow humans in anger, hate and violence, because they are lesser than us, to our eye. There is no lesser human when there is no religion.
In 1999, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), released a report identifying Doomsday Religious Movements.
The introduction reads:
Often overlooked in the discussion of emerging security intelligence issues is the challenge of contending with religious movements whose defining characteristic is an adherence to non-traditional spiritual belief systems. While only a small fraction of these groups could be considered Doomsday Religious Movements espousing hostile beliefs and having the potential to be violent, the threat they represent is evinced by recent events involving groups such as the American Branch Davidians, as well as Canada’s Order of the Solar Temple. Japan’s infamous Aum Shinrykio is a textbook example, where the coupling of apocalyptic beliefs and a charismatic leader fixated on enemies culminated in a nerve-gas attack intended to cause mass casualties in the hope of precipitating a world war and completing its apocalyptic prophecy. By examining the many characteristics of these movements, this paper intends to discuss which types of groups could be prone to violence and which factors indicate a group’s move to actualize this violence.
The problem of the introduction, is what about the traditional spiritual belief systems that are based in the same apocalyptic beliefs?
To my mind, a small group that eliminates its own membership is a self-solving problem. They don’t threaten non-members, as they are inwardly focused on their own salvation/redemption. The smaller group, as we say, at least has the courage of their conviction, and their actions are consistent with their beliefs.
Aside: I have always maintained there is nothing admirable about having the courage of one’s convictions, as it is merely fanaticism – the value of the courage should be dependent on the conviction, not one’s dedication to said conviction. Admiring the “courage” to stick by one’s conviction is to make a fetish of suffering and creates a class of sainthood/martyrdom which only inspires suicide bombers and abortion doctor assassins.
But, if we are going to assert that small groups are not behaving rationally owing to their belief in a specific doomsday, then why do we assume that larger groups with the same beliefs, but less urgency with respect to an end date are any more rational?
The CSIS report goes on to identify specific social threats that small doomsday cults pose and in particular, that the danger these cults pose is often a function of when and how they come to the attention of authorities.
Because, like a battering, stalking, controlling ex-spouse or romantic partner ends up striking against their victim ex after a restraining order is filed, so too do small personality cults end up in a mass murder/suicide or shoot out with secular authority, once said secular/government authority challenges the cult leader/violent ex-partner’s assumed entitlement to control their cult/ex-partner – the leader/ex becomes violent and usually fatally so.
The psychology of a person who murders their family and pets to save them from the evils in the world, the ex who would rather their beloved (and sometimes their families) be dead than with someone else or at least without them, is pretty much the same as the cult leader who decides that today is the day and takes themselves and their people out with them. Truly, Khadafy has said the same thing: he’d rather take everyone out with him, then leave them behind.
The mainstream, moderate believers would like to distance themselves from the true believers who take the religious texts as literal. They would like non-believers to think that they are not members of a disordered group who must spread by the word or by the sword, and that failing to convert will literally mean there’s hell to pay.
But, the mainstream and moderate believers are not true believers – religion is not rational, it is not a way to be peaceful and co-exist, to assert that there’s one god and one way to god is to deny all others and declare them as false. Interfaith committees who claim there’s one god and many ways to worship are not being true to their faiths, and are apologist appeasers who have discredited their faith and demonstrated that religion is a tool to manage and manipulate the masses – they have arrived at an appeasement balance of power – a no-nuke treaty with each other, if you will.
The danger of mainstream traditional religion is far greater than any personality cult, for it’s the mainstream traditional belief systems that maintain a veneer of participation in mainstream society – but who vote in blocks according to their religious beliefs that they seek to impose on mainstream society and as a consequence, hold back the advancement of human knowledge and easement of human suffering.
Denying funding to medical research such as stem cells, to Planned Parenthood and international aid programs that promote safe sex practices, to disaster relief organizations to prepare and mitigate natural disasters; that push for some foreign aid policies such as refusing Jewish immigration and creating Israel post WWII, the denial of refugee status based in anti-Semitism and the creation of Israel and moving Jewish people who escaped death at the hands of European hostility and delivered them into the midst of Arab hostility, an attempt to make the bible revelation prophesy come true on some level.
Aside: Anyone else remember what a big deal was made in the 1980’s of Ronald Reagan being the anti-Christ and the revelations prophesy about a time after Jews have a homeland?
The matter of rationality and religion/cult, in a secular society in which individual rights are paramount, we have enshrined the freedom of religion. Whether a person chooses a mainstream moderate religious belief or a minority fringe religious belief, is an order of magnitude of no significance whatsoever. Either way, they have chosen to abandon realty as the basis of their worldview, so how much or little realty is included, is of far lesser concern than that reality has been abandoned.
Individuals, and any children they may have and are legally entitled to indoctrinate with the religion of their choice, are free to choose and the social harm that we must be vigilant to is when groups of individuals attempt to force their religious choice and beliefs into secular law from legislation down to regulation, policy, directives and best practices employed in the secular civil service.
To do that, we must stop making meaningless distinctions that one religion is better or any more reasonable than any other. None of them are reasonable and they are all doomsday focused to varying degrees. The premise of religion is that this life that we have is a dress rehearsal or a learning cycle that will determine what happens in an afterlife, whether it’s a heaven/hell or a rest stop between lives.
Aside: Interesting, most religions do not have eternal either or states, but rather a cycle of rest and rebirth, aka reincarnation. This cosmic recycling of energy and gathering towards eventual enlightenment, or being one with everything, seems on the surface, more comforting and credible than the Abrahamic religions life is a short dress rehearsal for your afterlife placement, is a rather unreasonable and ridiculous lot of work to end up at oblivion/nirvana and the contempt towards human life that the Abrahamic religions highlights what a waste corporeal life is in this worldview, given a single life’s shortness compared to eternity.
Since the afterlife is not the mandate of any secular government, the legislation and policies and everything that flows from these foundational principles, must be wholly concerned with the here and now, not the ever after. To that end, as nations, each must stop looking inward to the short term needs of their citizens, and look to the cross border issues, especially with respect to pollution, water sheds/regions, habitat conservation and preservation, resource extractions and regional/energy sustainability.
We need only to collectively say that life matters and life is what is occurring here and now. Only then, will we be able to work together to make life meaningful and sustainable.