The Church's Strengths
Immature strategy is the cause of grief, on the battlefield, in the boardroom, and in all aspects of human dynamics. Always remember that are no irreversibly grim situations; change is inescapable and inevitable. Even the most powerful enemy has a limited sphere of strength and influence, and their strength will dissipate when they are drawn out of that sphere. This is why the kanji character for invincible (tenkamunteki) can be read as “having no rivals”.
In recent centuries, the church has been forced to assume a strategy of deception, as their loss of temporal power leaves them with no other options. These typically take the form of smokescreens, distractions, hand-waving arguments, and white lies, often taking the form of invented stories which have a grain of truth to them to make them believable. These, like all psychological attacks, are intended to artificially frame others into a position of comparative weakness, reminding others of what they wouldn't like to happen. These psychological attacks are intended to produce compliance, and failing that, an emotional response to stop their target from thinking clearly or quickly, leading them to make obvious and predictable responses.
Strategy is a plan of action; tactics are expedient means of achieving an end. Tactics are the part that can be seen or deciphered; strategy is the overarching plan that ties the tactics together. Tactics by themselves will inevitably fail without an overarching strategy. A strategy of deception typically relies upon the following illusion tactics:
- Intimidating Appearance. By carrying yourself as though you cannot be attacked or defeated, then others will think the same. This is why you must study your enemies, and only be concerned with what they can do, rather than what they can seem to do.
- Professional Appearance. Good posture and a neat, clean-cut appearance is often enough to convince someone that you’re a professional, allowing for intimidation through the trappings of authority.
- Threatening. Posing a threat causes others to momentarily lock up as their minds transition to deal with the changed situation, and as they think up ways to mitigate or counter the threat. This break-in-the-action can be used to setup the next argument or threat.
- Please note that this only works on the lowly, and when there are clearly-defined goals.
- Skillful Use of Hard and Soft Approaches. Rather than trying to do things the easy way or the hard way, it’s better to equally rely on both, starting with one and finishing with the other in a metaphorical pincer maneuver. This allows an optimist to “cover their bases,” and a pessimist to “hedge their bets.” Either way, opponents are burdened since they must effectively fight against two opponents contained within the same person.
- This is the basis behind surprise attacks.
- This is most commonly used to transfer emotion, by fostering certain feelings between another, and then quickly changing your demeanor (e.g., by making someone feel tense, and then suddenly lightening up, they will drop their guard.)
The clergy is able to continue their deception strategy since they are enabled and abetted by their various external sources of power. By working in ways to undermine, mitigate, or destroy these metaphorical horcruxes, the church will have no power over you -- or anyone else.
Taken as a whole, American churches generated $100 billion per year, and own $610 billion worth of real estate (as of 2009). The Catholic Church is one of the largest corporations in the US, with branch offices in most towns. At their peak (c.1965), the Catholic Church's assets and real estate holdings exceeded those of Standard Oil, AT&T, and US Steel combined; and their roster of dues-paying members was second only to the US Government tax rolls. In addition, all churches greatly benefit from exploiting tax loopholes which exist solely to further their agendas. All church revenue (excluding a preacher’s declared personal income) is tax-exempt. Churches and ministries aren't even required to register as 501(c)(3) charities; since they have an automatic “mandatory exemption” under 26 U.S. Code § 508(c)(1)(A). As a result, churches have no need or requirement to file tax returns, and since there are no shareholders, they have no financial accountability to anyone. It is impossible to determine how much any church or religious organization has, or what they are doing with it.
Because of this, many churches have grown into “a religious-industrial complex,” through their investments. For example:
- The Temple Baptist Church owned the Los Angeles Philharmonic Auditorium.
- The Muskingum Ohio Presbytery owned a cement block factory in Arizona.
- California’s Christian Brothers were once major vintners and brandy-makers.
- The LDS church owns (or has owned) the SLC Deseret News, KSL (the Salt Lake City NBC affiliate station, via their for-profit holding company, Bonneville International), 100,000 acres of ranch land (via Zion Securities Corp.) and Laie, HI.
- The Jesuits were prominent stockholders of Republic and National Steel, Boeing, Lockheed, Curtis-Wright, and Douglass Aircraft.
- The Knights of Columbus owned the land beneath the original Yankee Stadium (but not the building itself), among other New York City landholdings.
Corporations and churches alike have found these partnerships to be extremely advantageous, due to “sale and lease-back” arrangements. Churches or religious organizations buy a business, which they finance with a mortgage, then lease the facility back to its original operators. The church charges high rents (~80% of the business' earnings) to pay off the mortgage; so the business quickly pays for itself. Since the church is tax-exempt, it keeps 100% of the profits, and can thus safely borrow enough to outbid tax-paying purchasers, who can only work with their after-tax earnings. By acting as middlemen, churches can thus extract additional wealth from what the seller would have paid as taxes. The Supreme Court of the United States has ruled that these self-liquidating lease-back transactions, or “bootstrap purchases,” are entirely legal (see Commissioner v. Brown, 380 U.S. 563 (1965)). As a consequence, churches can exploit their mandatory tax exemption as a self-sufficient capital-producing device, and thus free themselves from the reliance (and scrutiny) of parishioners, contributors, and/or donors.
|The difference between religions and cults is determined by how much real estate is owned.|
Many societal problems persist due to the inadequate funding of the social programs established to eradicate them. This is because people aren't taxed in proportion to their wealth; in a holdover from colonial times, city tax revenue is largely generated from property taxes, and not from income tax. The church's massive landholdings are tax-exempt, and thus cannot contribute to funding social programs; this indirectly perpetuates society's problems, while creating an artificial demand for church programs which only symptomatically treat society’s ills. Challenging these social ills is to indirectly attack the church. Conservatives deplore welfare because it gives abused women a chance to escape, and challenges absolute patriarchy. The “welfare queen” is a myth; there are no incentives for welfare mothers to have more children, since benefits mostly come in non-cash forms (e.g., food stamps, Medicaid, and housing and daycare allowances which are paid directly to the providers).
Furthermore, priests never have to deliver on any of their religious claims -- there are no refunds in the religion business, because there are no transactions or contracts. Since all funding is “by donation,” even the most exploitative televangelist faith healing charlatans cannot be arraigned on fraud charges. Why, a particularly shrewd and/or devious person could easily use church collection baskets to launder money.
Historically, churches were important to overall social organization -- but only as instruments of social control and discipline. Priests must act as authority figures, since Christianity presupposes that people do not -- and cannot -- know what is and is not good for them; God alone knows these things. Because of this, people respect priests, because priests tell them to do so. The primary message of all religions is that you need the religion, even though only the priests will benefit from it. Secondary messages include:
- What the group believes is reality -- not a worldview, or a theory -- it just is. This belief is never to be discussed or argued, since truth only exists within the church and its teachings. (This is why it’s impossible to win a creationist debate -- even agreeing to a debate acknowledges that their views contain some quantum of merit, which automatically grants them some degree of victory.)
- This “reality” is a black-and-white, good-vs.-evil dichotomy.
- The church members are part of a “chosen” group. This fact makes followers feel special, which in turn, keeps them in line.
- Submission to the group’s will is required. Individual dreams and goals must be tailored to support and coincide with the church’s goals.
- Control is asserted though fear, guilt, and shame. The individual is always at fault; never the church. “Love” is always conditional and mostly directed at new members, as a recruiting tool. Those who do not conform to the church’s ideology are gradually and subtly dehumanized by being assign despised characteristics. This attack is highly abstract, to negate the reality of concrete, specific, and unique human characteristics. This new, exclusive community fosters rigidity, conformity, and intolerance against these “straw men.” This is intrinsically dangerous, as extremists never begin as extremists; it is a gradual process, which continues as long as they do not meet resistance. This behavior has been codified as Catholic dogma (Canon Law 1369).
The clergy has historically opposed those who questioned their authority. Darwinian evolution, cosmology, and the geosciences are perennial threats to religious authorities since they imply a morally-neutral universe. This hostility is reinforced by the inherently anti-science Bible; Christ advises us to “be like little children” who neither study calculus, economics, or medicine. While the church no longer teaches that education is sinful, education is still considered to be dangerous because it can lead to questioning dogma. However to “be like little children” also means to be completely pliable to authority; children are (mostly) obedient to authority, and they will change their stories to meet what they think that adults want to hear. Also, stories about people will cause children to change their views about those people, to better conform to the stories. In the same way, apologists escape the need for evidence by constantly arguing about the criteria needed for something to constitute evidence.
To ensure their authority, Christians have co-opted virtually every institution to serve their needs. Christians offer no means or opportunity for alternate worldviews; four of the Ten Commandments mandate a monotheistic religion, and therefore oppose a pluralistic society. Outsiders are marginalized, but are accepted (or at least tolerated) as long as they don’t push the invisible boundaries which were established for them. While this is seemingly inclusive, group pressure and the tendency to conform will play an influence the thoughts and actions of non-Christians. Separating people from competing influences, discrediting, and/or defining potential competing influences as illegitimate is sufficient to control most people's attitudes. Children are shaped by coercion (typically in the form of guilt and expectations) to condition them into reliance upon external authority for their moral choices amid the chaos of our lives. This way, they will not challenge male authority figures as adults.
Anyone can assume this authority; it is not regulated in any way. There is no need for ordination; anyone claiming to be “ordained by God,” holds as much legal and spiritual authority as a seminary graduate. This is easier in the US, where the appearance of honesty is valued above honesty. This practice is the seed of “moral corruption;” when lying becomes commonplace, it becomes increasingly necessary to hide previous deceptions, which quickly snowballs. When lying is taken for granted, it then becomes a part of one's self-presentation and will inevitably spread from the public sphere to the private sphere, corroding interpersonal bonds. This is why self-ordained priests tend to have short careers. Still, most religious authorities are self-proclaimed; this is especially true of Catholicism, which invented most of its traditions and mythos: There are no biblical mandates for:
- An exclusive, hierarchical clergy.
- The sacraments of reconciliation and marriage.
- Any complicated or legalistic postmortem punishment and reward system.
- Several central dogmas and doctrines (e.g., papal infallibility, the Immaculate Conception, the Assumption of Mary).
- Some Catholic traditions even directly contradict the Bible, like:
- Celibate clergy (1TIM 3:2).
- One-way confessions to priests (JAM 5:16).
- Calling priests “father” (MAT 23:9).
It should be noted that Fundamentalism strongly correlates with racism, homophobia, ethnocentrism, and punitiveness. Fundamentalists target women, homosexuals, Jews, atheists, blacks, and a host of other groups when confronted with the imperfections of our culture. This is in part, due to Fundamentalism’s binary worldview, which renders its followers incapable of seeing others as anything but inverted reflections of themselves. Those who believe they are immune from evil and/or bear no resemblance to their enemy, will inevitably come to embody the evil which they claim to fight. When this "evil" is externalized, the resulting "moral purification" always entails eradicating the other group. This has come to a head in the form of Dominionism, an extreme form of Calvinist Reconstructionism cloaked in rabid American patriotism. The Dominionists believe they hold dominion over all-creation, as promised by God (GEN 1:26-31), and thus seek to redefine traditional democratic and Christian terms and concepts to augment their political power. Essentially, Dominionism is a form of fascism, with American Christians playing the role of the master race. Dominionists now control at least six national TV networks, virtually all of the 2,000+ religious radio stations in the US, and the Southern Baptist Convention. Debating Dominionists is fruitless, because they seek hegemony, not dialogue. “It doesn’t matter if you believe this stuff. What matters is that they do.”
In many ways, the clergy fear love the most, for love can unleash passions and break bonds far stronger than their carefully constructed edifices that tap and enclose followers.
George Orwell was the first to notice that language, not physical force, is the key to manipulating minds. In fact, growing evidence in behavioral sciences reveals that a smiling “Big Brother” has a greater influence than a visibly threatening person. Modern Christians have learned to avoid violence, if nothing else, to avoid the ensuing backlash. Christians prefer to poison the channels of public information, bending the truth to support themselves. Conservative Christians claim to be super-patriots, while seeking to destroy every Constitutional liberty. Conservative Christians laud free enterprise, but make their living as the spokesmen of monopolies and vested interests. By simultaneously controlling both the power of the state and the power of the market, hegemony is ensured.
Religious belief is commonly defended through clever semantics. When confronted about a specific issue with their faith, Christians will commonly claim not to believe that aspect. When subsequently asked why they do not believe that aspect, or why they continue to believe at all, then the conversation transforms into a monologue disguised as a dialogue, to drown out any contrary views.
Christians assert their dominance through the exploitation of seven interlocking psychological devices. Christians are able to successfully deny this manipulation because, in isolation, these techniques are too obvious and transparent to be manipulative, or they have fleeting effects which quickly subside. However, each of these methodologies synergistically interacts with one another; their cumulative effect greatly exceeds the sum of their individual effects. These interlocking psychological devices include:
- The Bible's Benign, Attractive Persona. The Bible appears quaint and harmless, and anything objectionable is deeply coded within its subtext. However, everything the Bible says holds alternate meanings, which are learned as the initiate deepens their studies. (Essentially, this is the classic “bait-and-switch” con.)
- Discrediting “The World.” Christianity establishes a rhetorical framework wherein ad hominem attacks (i.e., personal insults) are legitimate arguments, to be used on Christians and challengers alike as a means of control, since Christianity must dominate any and all aspects of life (COL 31:-17; PHIL 2:1-11; 1COR 12:12-31).
- Doublespeak. By design, the New Testament uses deliberately confusing terminology, to uphold the Pharisaic tradition of putting interpretive glosses on scriptures; Paul freely admits to this deceit (2COR 12:16). Common words and phrases are loaded with additional confusing and/or contradictory alternate meanings, so they can no longer effectively communicate information. The new meanings are always more somber and meaningful than their common-usages. As a member is further indoctrinated, these new meanings supplant the old ones; this makes communication with non-members difficult, and later, unintelligible. This insulates members from outside influences, and helps portray outsiders as foolish and/or immoral. The Tower of Babel incident demonstrates that God encourages the use of doublespeak against the advocates of science, technology, and mutual cooperation, since these can all usurp God’s sovereignty.
Doublespeak is enhanced by the many ways wordplay, translations, and hyperbole is used within the literary traditions of other cultures; modern biblical translations will change or remove words or passages to optimize this effect.
- Assaulting Integrity. Religious faith demands conceding to the idea that belief can be sanctified by something other than evidence. Christians further assume that any curiosity or doubts regarding dogma are forms of ridicule and rage. The immoral actions and/or character flaws of other Christians are usually shrugged aside, invoking the No-True-Scotsman Fallacy as the go-to defense. As a result, Christians have rigged discourse such that it is considered rude to directly question their beliefs; this can only be done indirectly, if at all.
- Inducing Disassociation. Faith is presented as a constant outpouring and energy expenditure, and the “peace” and “joy” it provides does not mitigate this drudgery. Obsessive conscious concentration is lauded; mental relaxation, flights of fancy, and anything resembling ecstasy are devalued and negatively characterized. (1THES 1:3, 5:5-9; 2THES 1:11-12; 1TIM 6:12; EPH 6:23-24). Letting your guard down for even a second can possibly result in instant damnation, as Christ will swiftly return at an unknown time (1THES 5:2,4; 2PET 3:10; REV 3:3, 16:15). The “Full Armor of God” (EPH 6:10-17) is a cumbersome military uniform which submerges individuality, insulates the believer from all but a few approved forms of stimulation, restricts their freedom of movement, and is better for making war than making love.
- Bridge Burning. The gap between the close-knit circles of believers and the non-believer outsiders are widened, such that those who are inside can never escape.
- Holy Terror. Fear is used to ensure compliance, and actions to the contrary are evasions or obfuscations. Christianity only offers the hope of deliverance from its own punishments. (“They cut you with knives to sell you bandages.”)
|Perhaps the unpardonable sin of fundamentalism is its effort to make people suspicious and afraid of their own minds, their own logic and thinking process. Any thought that contradicts the fundamentalist dogmas is labeled “Satanic” or “demonic.” If we cannot depend on our minds to process reality and make choices and decisions in life, then we are more likely to depend on fundamentalist preachers like Falwell or Swaggart. How can a democracy survive if all of us renounce reason, thinking, and logic?|
—Richard Yao, head of Fundamentalists Anonymous
As previously stated, Christians make frequent use of doublespeak to further their agenda. This weaponization of language takes on several forms, which we must explore and understand. Examples include:
- Christians work to redefine words to make the US Constitution match with their own internal legal system of “Christian Principles.” With this, Christians can protect their vested interests, condemn their opponents, and maintain an air of democracy. By assuming control over our history, the validity of the histories of other groups can be denied, and thus the idea that there are other acceptable ways of living and being is also denied. In their rhetoric, there is only one way to be a Christian, and only one way to be an American.
- Specifically, “liberty” is construed to refer to “religious liberty,” and more specifically, the “liberty” found when one accepts and obeys Jesus Christ, and is thus “liberated” from the world. Alternately, “liberty” has been redefined to mean as “fealty to the Spirit of the Lord.” The process of “liberty” “frees” (i.e., eradicates) different moral codes and belief systems, and introduces a single, uniform, and unquestioned “Christian” orientation. “Liberty” thus becomes a synonym for theocracy.
- “Faith” is commonly invoked by believers as a thought-terminating cliché to end arguments.
- “That’s because God wanted it that way” is the ultimate thought-terminating cliché; it allows Christians to cite literally anything as evidence for their claims, regardless of what it is, or what it does. However, since this phrase can mean anything, it ultimately means nothing, since it can’t prove anything, nor can it even demonstrate a causal link.
- Censorship is a “selection process.”
- The Gideons offer “free bibles,” then ask for donations. Likewise, preachers can ignore “No soliciting” signs since they are not selling anything per se, they are giving the “free gift” of salvation.
- “Ethical conduct” simply means supporting and campaigning for their particular agenda. Often to be “moral,” one must oppose gay rights, affirmative action, gun control, stem-cell research, doctor-assisted suicide, abortion, the United Nations, most liberal politicians, and support patriarchy.
- The term “sin” has been rephrased to remove its collective dimension. Originally sin referred to violations of the natural and economic order, or against the concept of justice itself. This term has been re-framed to refer to personal indiscretions (e.g., adultery, drunkenness, drugs, gambling, and foul language), which are obsessively pursued with the same energy and zeal as the large-scope problems sin once embodied.
- Additionally, acts which promote individualistic self-consciousness are branded as sinful. Devoting all of one’s personal resources to a heroic, principled, and individualistic purposes are contrary to the church's interests; if society’s ills were actually cured, then the church’s symptomatic treatments would become unnecessary.
- Any act or practice not specifically created for Christians worship is de facto sinful, since it serves neither God, the church, nor the church’s agenda. This is why Christians have issued repeated, vocal condemnations on the following:
- Yoga, which is derived from Hindu practices, is a “demonic doorway."
- Martial arts are “demonic,” because the various stances and striking hand positions are interpreted as being mudra, making marital arts a de facto form of yoga, as do the breathing methods, centering techniques, and Zen-inspired meditation influences. Likewise, a traditional Japanese dōjō includes cultural elements, (e.g., bowing to the kamiza and to instructors) which can be confused with idolatry.
- Mantras are demonic because they induce trance states, which are claimed to allow spirits to enter the body. The fact that prayer operates in an identical fashion is never discussed.
- Rock music (in all its forms and derivatives) is evil because it induces hypnotic trances through “mindless chants” and repetition. It is not discussed that much of the Western musical tradition features a repeating chorus.
- “Satanic” meditation is passive (e.g., zazen, “zoning out”), whereas Christian meditation is active (e.g., reading, memorizing, etc.). Constantly performing non-productive cognitive tasks prevents independent thought.
- Many fundamentalists view the Catholic sacrament of the Eucharist as a form of idolatry, as Jesus’ infinite power cannot be contained in a small, man-made object. Ergo, since it is not the true Jesus, it is de facto demonic.
- Textbooks used in Christian parochial and homeschooling re-interpret history to serve their agenda. Joseph McCarthy is seen as a patriot, whose “conclusions, although technically unprovable, were drawn from the accumulation of undisputed facts.” These books also blame Africa's persistent poverty and political chaos on a lack of faith, ignoring the repressive colonial European regimes that exploited the continent and decimated its population.
- The church imposes itself onto important life experiences, usurping the power of those moments (e.g., “Christian marriage”).
- A combination of framing and phrasing is used to discredit atheists, including:
- Branding atheists as “arrogant,” when many Christians claim to literally have every answer, and certain knowledge of past and future events. No evidence of these claims is ever presented, and questioning these claims is considered a shameful act.
- The terms “so-called atheist” or “admitted atheist” are phrased to marginalize or discredit that worldview. In reality, it is no different, and no less common than being a “so-called Presbyterian” or “admitted Southern Baptist.”
- Atheists are only ever discussed if they conform to “designated” roles which actively degrade or destroy society. (e.g., illegal drug user, prostitutes, “rampant materialists and cultural elitists,” etc.)
- Christians claim to be marginalized and unjustly persecuted, while unhesitating persecuting any person or organization over any perceived slight. The Southern Baptist Convention and the Catholic League are famous for their attempts to control the secular media through legal threats, public humiliation, letter-writing campaigns, and sponsor boycotts. This behavior is an inarguable part of Catholic dogma (Canon Law 1369).
- Those who resist or question the alleged persecution are labeled as “anti-Christian bigots” to rile up the Christian base, even if that claim is demonstrably untrue.
- Christians frequently complain about a liberal hegemony of the mainstream media, while maintaining their own TV and radio empire. These stations weave theological and political viewpoints together, and are generally unscrutinized or unchallenged by the mainstream media.
- Christianity relies on intentionally undefined terms, so Christians can make their religion to say whatever they want it to mean at the time. For example:
- Religion itself is an undefined term, which equally refers to non-deistic “philosophic” religions, like Zen Buddhism and Taoism.
- God explicitly commanded that his name shall not be taken in vain, but he made literally no effort to explain what that meant. At any given time, this can mean a prohibition on:
- Calling on God, and/or using his name in profanity and/or filler speech (e.g., “Oh my God!”). This is commonly invoked as a means of limiting personal expression and the freedom of speech.
- Swearing oaths and contracts in God’s name.
- Claiming to be a Christian without observing all of the required standards and practices. This can be used to condemn any action, since it's an impossibly vague request with wildly varying requirements.
- Linking God to your personal causes and agendas to grant them legitimacy.
- Christians make frequent use of seemingly-profound statements or “deepities” which appear true on one level, and meaningless on all others. Examples include:
- Everything Deepak Chopra says.
- “Having faith is really about seeking something beyond faith itself.”
- HEB 1:11
- “Faith is faith in the living God, and God is and remains a mystery beyond human comprehension. Although the ‘object’ of our faith, God never ceases to be the ‘subject.’”
Priests have adopted a manner of speaking which induces hypnotic trances in order to get their parishioners to relax, listen, and ultimately comply. These hypnotic techniques are not explicitly taught as such, but as a series of “best practices,” unconsciously picked up through the emulation of successful preachers. These hypnotic techniques include:
- A marked, regular, soothing rhythm. Abruptness shocks people out of trances.
- The use of refrain and frequent repetition.
- Guided imagery in the onset. This encourages a system of compliance and cooperation, thinking the thoughts that the speaker wishes to convey. Typically, the focus is on an idealized past which never existed.
- Vague imagery once the trance is established. Omitting details forces the subject to fill them in for themselves, and concentrate further. Overly-descriptive stories cause the listener to get wrapped-up in the details, and they will lose their train of thought (like a Tolkien novel).
- Nested stories. Telling a story-within-a-story requires more concentration to keep everything straight. The resulting mental fatigue enhances the power of trance states. Christians are notorious for this, because of Christ’s frequent use of parables. (i.e., Rather than being direct, priests tell the story about the time that Christ told a story, and relate that to a personal story about how they used that story to help a troubled person, and how that experience relates to your personal story.)
- Using routines designed to generate emotional responses. These routines are chained together to reinforce their familiarity. The order of these routines rarely change significantly, mainly because there are a finite number of combinations, and the best ones have already been discovered (which is why few churches ask for cash up front). These routines are designed to evoke friendly and positive emotions only among their own members (e.g., Muslims don’t sing “Onward Christian Soldiers”).
- Trance-inducing venues. Walking into a church triggers rituals (e.g., removing hats, blessing with holy water, kneeling to the tabernacle). Catholic and Orthodox churches commonly use ritual aromas to trigger trance states. Group size and density has a powerful effect; mass is held en masse to amplify individual experiences. (This is also why poorly-attended stadiums and bars are boring.)
- This is why the traditional trappings of authority are de-emphasized in evangelical churches; their buildings must be expanded or abandoned as their congregations grow or shrink in size, which is something that a traditional stone cathedral will not allow.
- Using probing questions to stir emotional turmoil and find parishioner's weaknesses. Coming out of emotionally-charged situations triggers an endorphin release. Priests stir up this distress, to present religion as a solution to the parishioner’s weaknesses. ("They cut you, so they can sell bandages.") By riling up parishioners, and then coaxing them to relax and pray, the parishioner will feel better and associate religion with tension relief -- despite that the priest caused the tension.
- This is a favorite technique among youth minsters.
Totalitarianism is based upon laws which are impossible to obey; this ensures guilt, so punishment is always authorized. ("Damned if you do; damned if you don't.") The resulting tyranny is even more impressive when it is enforced by a zealous error-detecting privileged caste or party. This psychology presupposes the fact that its originators (the priests who led ancient communities) wanted to grant themselves the power to impose punishments –- or to indirectly do so by giving God the right to punish. Every action had to be considered willed and originating from the consciousness, so that people could be held culpable, judged, and punished –- so they could become guilty. Cultists are notorious for this; they preach perfection and condemn members for perceived imperfection. Cult members then spend years trying to live up to an ideal, and always fail because their standards are beyond human capability.
Christians are thus able to control people via a combination of the “Just World" hypothesis and victim blaming. It is assumed that good things happen to good people, and vice-versa. Therefore, anytime something bad happens to someone, they are assumed to be a moral failure. This is the unfortunate reason why rape victims are blamed instead of rapists, and mugging victims are blamed for being in bad parts of town. At best, American Christians only see four groups of victims as being “legitimate:”
- Victims of violent crimes.
- Victims of circumstance (e.g., natural disasters, serious illnesses).
- Victims of kidnappers and/or hostages.
- Victims of civil torts (e.g., personal injury, malpractice) who can address the courts.
There should be a fifth class, for victims of enforced dependency and/or forced behavioral reconstruction (e.g., brainwashing, gaslighting, or other manipulation) but this has yet to extend itself to the whole of society.
These double-binds are commonly implemented by "predicting" inevitable events, or by implementing "solutions" which either augment or straight-up cause the problem they intend to fix. Some of the more popular versions of this tactic include:
- Christians seek their own persecution. Christ claimed that if he were persecuted, so would his followers (JOH 15:20). Christ was eventually mocked, spit upon, betrayed, beaten, and slowly publicly executed. Therefore, resisting Christian authority validates Christian authority.
- Parochial schools tend to have higher standardized test scores and college acceptance rates than public schools -- because they are allowed to pick and choose their students. Problematic students are deliberately excluded, and left to the public school districts. Parochial schools maintain their image not by teaching, but by their refusal to educate.
- Contraception failure is the root cause of most abortions. The majority of people want to use contraception as their primary family planning option, and seek abortion as a last resort. Christians misrepresent this fact to further their agenda. By limiting access to contraception, Christians cause abortions.
- Christianity uses unconscious fear and hatred to promote its goals. Churches claim to be the only salvation from a world of intrinsic injustice, poverty, cruelty, and misery -- despite the fact that these conditions can be cured with sweeping economic, political, and educational reforms.
- Christians believe that "he that increaseth wisdom increaseth sorrow," and they infer that he that increaseth sorrow increaseth wisdom. This is why they will donate money to build playgrounds with so many rules no one can have fun. Likewise, many shops, museums, etc. are closed or have restricted hours on Sundays, so that people can't enjoy them on their days off.
- During the Satanic Panic, Christian leaders claimed that Satanists had allegedly infiltrated every police department, welfare department, and all areas of psychology and psychiatry, which is why their crimes go undetected. While there has never been any direct evidence for these Satanic cults, this lack of evidence was cited as a proof of "cover-up" conspiracies. The indirect evidence cited in cult activity claims was so broad and varied that anything could be construed as a sign of such activity.
- Faith healers blame the inevitable failure of their healing ceremonies on the subject’s lack of faith.
While the fear of Satanic cults is far less prevalent now than its 1970’s and 1980’s heyday, the fearmongering which drove such panics still persists; only the targets have changed. The perceived threat of Satanic ritual abuse conspiracies was the most intense moral panic since McCarthyism. To some degree, it still persists -- Halloween candy is still being x-rayed for razors -- but no one knows anyone harmed by Halloween candy; and no one has ever been arrested for these crimes, despite the fact they’ve been allegedly operating in the same neighborhoods, for thirty-plus years.
|Satan had been the best friend the church has ever had, as he has kept it in business all these years!|
Exploiting the spectacle of Jim Jones and then-popular fad of Multiple Personality Disorder stories (e.g., Sybil, The Three Faces of Eve, etc.), these cults allegedly operated for years in small towns, completely undetected, as they were so organized and Machiavellian that they could and would do anything to preserve their secret. These cults ran unchecked because the police were frightened into silent compliance, despite their ability and history of competently infiltrating the Ku Klux Klan, the Communist Party, drug syndicates, and Mafia crime families. The slightest skepticism of these claims was seen as the ultimate betrayal -- not only to the children allegedly harmed -- but to the adult accusers, and their sense of identity as saviors. In this polarized atmosphere, doubters were condemned as part of the patriarchal backlash against the crusade to stop sexual violence. Defense lawyers cried foul at the lack of corroborating evidence -- no adult witnesses, no pornography, no scars, no blood stains, no bodies -- and no testimony from abused children without relentless pressure from parents and investigators. Historically, this has always been the case -- the police can’t infiltrate secret criminal covens, because they simply don’t exist. Without physical evidence, convictions were based on testimony alone, mostly by children, who agreed in monosyllables to the prosecutor’s stories.
Like all social movements, many factors drove the “Satanic Panic.” These include:
- The hyper-conservative Reagan and Bush I administrations, which was a backlash at a generation’s worth of turbulent gender relations changes. Middle-class adolescents became open about their premarital sexual experimentation, abortion was legalized, the number of unwed teenage mothers quadrupled, the divorce rate tripled, women with young children streamed into the workforce, and day-care centers proliferated.
- After the Vietnam War ended, Baby Boomers simply had nothing to be mad at anymore; they became aimless rebels without causes. With no obvious enemies, they became forced to invent some.
- Western philosophy holds the unique notion that people exist to strive for moral perfection, yet are not to blame for failing to attain that ideal. These failures are the result of hidden, inner enemies undermining society. The cognitive structure of this demonology encourages people to psychologically project their fears and guilt (i.e., their “inner demons”) onto convenient scapegoat groups. This strongly appeals to people with authoritarian personalities, as their extremely rigid thought patterns demand complete conformity and allegiance to the social norms imposed by an official ideology or religious belief system. Satan and Satanic cults were the ideal choice for an enemy-stereotype scapegoat because:
- No other scapegoat was available at the time.
- This allowed Americans to maintain their sentimental historical delusion of being more morally righteous than the rest of the world's people.
- “Satanic Cult” is a loaded phrase which combines two powerful images: Satan and cults.
- Americans do not use the term “cult,” in its anthropological sense (i.e., as a new religious group which is distinctively different from the society's previous religious groups). Instead, “cult” is a loaded word which implies that a group is dangerous, manipulative, secretive, and conspiratorial. Moreover, cults are seen as de facto heresy, and an intrinsic threat to all decent, traditional cultural values.
- The term “Satanic Cult activity” is vague enough to apply to a wide variety of social deviants: e.g., child molesters, violent teenage gangs, psychopathic serial murderers, teenagers involved in makeshift occultism, and harmless practitioners of unconventional religions.
- Satan and Satanism played a large role in the pop culture of that era; it was the golden age of low-budget horror movies, and many films desperately tried to cash in on the success of The Exorcist, Rosemary’s Baby, and The Omen.
- Satan symbolizes losing faith in legitimate authority. Fighting Satanic cults is what anthropologists call a “revitalization movement” -- a social movement aimed at restoring an idealized society to its past greatness and moral purity. These social movements typically blame the subversion of dominant cultural values upon an evil internal enemy.
- The economic downturns of the era escalated poverty, which in turn, attracted more people to religion.
- Fearing competition, Satanic cult myths allowed fundamentalist churches to literally demonize New Age religions, which were growing in popularity at the time.
- Religious people are paradoxically pleased and relieved by news of Satanic crimes -- confirming the existence of Satan, by proxy, confirms the existence of God.
Groupthink is instrumental in all of this. Groupthink is a collective response to conformity pressures operating within communication networks and groups which are somewhat closed to external influences and alternate beliefs. Groupthink occurs in any group requiring cooperative interaction between members, which create social pressures to conform. These pressures suppress critical thinking and reality testing, in favor of group solidarity. Members with deviating viewpoints can cause internal conflicts and bickering, so they are subtly ostracized or chastised for their disloyalty. Eventually, the process alters each member’s perception of reality, and those who might privately disagree start to doubt themselves, changing their beliefs to comply with the group’s conception of reality.
When a society perceives an external enemy -- even one which poses no genuine credible threat -- the society responds by collectively manufacturing an evil enemy image. This image is a stereotype of the enemy group, which possesses whatever qualities are considered to be the most immoral at the time; it is a reversed mirror image of the society which creates it. The image-creating society thus becomes a contrasting stereotype, to allow its members to exaggerate their own virtue, while silencing critics and dissenters by labeling them as traitors (e.g., “Red fanatics” from the “evil empire” of Communism; the “Japs;” “Huns;” and “Indian savages”). Eventually, this becomes a “moral crusade” and/or “witch hunt” for the perceived social deviants, which may or may not actually even exist. Eventually, rumor-inspired copycat crimes create a self-fulfilling prophecy, since a “deviant ideology” is needed to rationalize deviant behavior.
These completely-absurd rumors took off and became accepted because of the zeitgeist, which consistently provided all three forms of rumor fuel to many towns and cities:
- An ambiguous event which causes many people to enter a stressful situation (e.g., economic downturn, unexplained crimes).
- Drawing attention to a previously-unconsidered fact and/or aspect of a common, ongoing activity (e.g., dual-income families placing their children in daycare).
- Symbolic urban legends or folktales which are reworked for the modern world by integrating the above two items. In particular, Satanic cult rumors are derived from the:
- “Blood ritual myth,” where conspirators kidnap and murder children, to use their blood and body parts in religious rituals. This is an enduring myth because it universally frightens every parent.
- “Surprisers Surprised legend," where those planning a surprise party enter the guest-of-honor’s home, only to find them doing something embarrassing.
Satanic cult rumors were considered to be legitimate because:
- They were conveyed by authority figures (e.g., parents, teachers, ministers, police officers, etc.).
- People don’t question the statistics given by authority figures, especially when communicated via a one-way media (e.g., radio, television, sermons). Senator McCarthy sent America into a Red Scare with his list of Communist infiltrators in the US State Department -- but he never showed anyone the list. No one asked for it -- and no one could ask for it. Likewise, Geraldo Rivera stated on his then-popular show that there were 1,000,000 Satanists in the US -- 1 in every 230 people -- and no one ever noticed it until that broadcast.
- Certain groups (e.g., fundamentalist churches, small town police forces) are more ideologically receptive to Satanic cult rumors, and more likely to actively disseminate them. When spread on the local level via personal, face-to-face relations, these bizarre claims attained more credibility than the media could ever grant. The most convincing way of communicating an outrageous or frightening story is hearing it from “a-friend-of-a-friend” who “really knows,” because this has a built-in reason-suppressing mechanism -- questioning these claims requires questioning your friendship and sense of community.
- Religious-based threats allowed clergymen to leverage their expertise and gain credibility in the secular world. The National Education Association permitted religious evangelists to speak to public school students about the psychological dangers of Satanism, since they were the “experts.” The fear and spectacle drew large audiences to information seminars, which charged admission fees of $70/person ($170, adjusted for inflation).
- The rumors were repeated many times, from different sources, resulting in a “consensual validation of reality” (i.e., wikiality). Rumormongers are not propagandists; propagandists are small cliques that actively promote stories to a passive, fact-ignoring audience. Rumors are a social process of collaborative (tandem) story-telling set on finding consensual explanations for ambiguous circumstances.
- Rumors spread because people assume that their friends won’t lie to them. Likewise, friends-of-friends are also thought to always speak the truth, by proxy. This testimony is unjustly accepted as absolute evidence, even in the absence of corroborating physical evidence.
- A rumor is “only just a rumor” once it has been proven false. However, rumors usually contain some seed of truth, which is blown out of proportion by misperception, distortion, and embellishment. Legends, like rumors, are primarily oral; the line between “as if it were true” and “is true” become blurred and shaded. The Satanic cult myths were based on the following seeds of truth, listed in order of prevalence:
- A murder or suicide.
- “Satanic” graffiti.
- Cemetery vandalism.
- A violent crime in an otherwise peaceful small town.
- Church meetings or police conferences concerning the dangers of Satanic cults.
- Mass-media presentation about Satanism cults.
- Accusations made as part of conflicts between local youth groups.
- The discovery of mutilated animals. (It should be noted that many of these animal mutilations were merely roadkill.)
- Rumors can't be stopped with denials, refutations, or by remaining silent:
- Since rumors are constantly being repeated; failing to act only enables them to spread.
- Denials are ignored, since they are not interesting or newsworthy enough to repeat.
- Rumormongers will distort denials or refutations made by authority figures into confirming the rumor’s validity.
- Even poorly educated, un-skeptical people will disbelieve rumors if they have specialized knowledge about the rumor subject. Stories of cattle mutilations by UFOs or Satanists were widely accepted by their respective conspiracy theorists, but never believed by the ranchers.
- Experimental evidence shows that fear-provoking rumors paradoxically satisfy people's need for information, while increasing their collective anxiety. People suffering from anxiety due to stressful life situations seek explanations for that anxiety. If the reasons for the anxiety are unclear, then people will grasp rumor stories for an explanation.
- People will thus half-believe any rumor story as a “better-safe-than-sorry” precaution.
- The most successful rumor stories typically involve the teller knowing an eyewitness. Rumormongers can easily invent this testimony to legitimize their fabrications and satisfy a variety of personal motives, such as:
- Obtaining attention and prestige.
- Expressing their fantasy fears.
- Attacking a group they hate.
- Amusing themselves or others.
- Expressing some mental delusion. Most of the reported Satanic cult survivors suffered from Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD).
- The rumors were personally relevant to many people.
- These rumors keyed into the common “stranger danger” fear, since their politicians were fed the false statistic of 50,000 child kidnappings by strangers each year.
- If that statistic were true, then every school would have one missing student.
- In reality, only a few hundred children are taken by strangers each year. Most child kidnappings are perpetrated by their divorced, non-custodial parents.
- The police officers, social workers, and clergymen who were the primary myth promoters were primarily focused on teenage pseudo-Satanism. Finding these behaviors in any community is always a self-fulfilling prophecy since:
- Teens have always rebelled against police officers, social workers, and clergymen.
- Teenagers in their piss-and-vinegar stages embrace Satanic imagery, and its “scare your parents” aesthetic as a means to circumvent authority and establish their independence.
- Pseudo-Satanists are commonly teens rebelling from an overly restrictive, traditional religious family background which emphasizes that the world is an evil place. These young people misbehave because they actually perceive themselves as being bad people, and they prefer this label to having an ambiguous, ill-defined, or pre-determined identity.
- These rumor stories comforted the parents of delinquents, drug users, and suicide victims. It’s easier to blame heavy metal bands and secret cults than to admit to being shitty parents.
- These rumors keyed into the common “stranger danger” fear, since their politicians were fed the false statistic of 50,000 child kidnappings by strangers each year.
Modern translations, such as the New International Version (NIV), have smoothed over many theological problems by cleverly re-interpreting many problematic texts and editing out many contradictions. While there are many theological objections to these modern translations, the popularity of the King James Version (KJV) endures for a more practical reason -- it in the public domain. Translations are the intellectual property of their translator -- reading a modern Biblical translation in mass could be construed as a public performance, and the translator could be entitled to royalties. The KJV was completed in 1611, and can be used freely by all, since it pre-dates the notion of copyright.
Reading the Bible is a tricky endeavor, regardless of the version, since there are several different types of stories and lessons interlaced throughout. These stories fall into four categories:
- Explicit Devotional Program Instructions. Explicit commands to perform concrete acts (e.g. "Thou shalt not steal").
- Implicit Devotional Program Instructions. Commands given in figurative, non-literal terms (e.g., “turn the other cheek”).
- Direct Suggestions. Explanation of the expected mindset via allegories. These are especially important; as the crux of Protestantism is that all Biblical events are allegories for the reader's inner life.
- Reverse Suggestions. Biblical allegories which reinforce the negative psychological consequence of belief (e.g., those involving animals, demons, and disasters). These provide the believer with feedback to make sure they are “on target.”
However, it is unclear how to determine which passages fall into which category. While some passages are literal, others can be explained away to make the stories more believable -- but what drives this “selective literalism”? How can anyone tell what is real, and what is a metaphor? For example, some Christians take the story of Noah’s Ark literally, while others view the story figuratively. Which group is correct? -- and what criteria do priests and biblical scholars use to determine the status of a given passage or story?
|You can't convince a believer of anything; for their belief is not based on evidence, it's based on a deep-seated need to believe.|
This is why apologists act with such zeal -- they aren’t trying to convince others; they are trying to convince themselves. Witnessing does not convince outsiders to join; it convinces the witness to stay. To meet this end, apologists exploit a number of cognitive biases to influence decision making in lieu of arguments. In particular:
- Apologists frequently invoke the confirmation bias to make extreme logical leaps that “prove” the accuracy of scriptural events.
- This is especially true with the New Testament, as Paul was merely a narrator, who spoke in vague generalities. The only factual statement which Paul ever took a strong position on was, ironically, the Liar’s Paradox (TIT 1:12), which is an unverifiable statement.
- The Trinity is often invoked for this purpose, as it allows Christians to be effectively polytheistic without having to resort to polytheism. Depending on the situation, God can be an all-powerful, all-knowing creator deity; a regular tradesman; or a ill-defined spiritual force.
- Pastors frequently tell their doubting parishioners to read the Bible and pray about it. When you ask someone to start with a belief and see what happens, that’s not an argument -- that’s just giving an order.
- The Bible directly commands Christians to police their own thoughts (2COR 10:5) and to be “obedient as children.” (2PET 1:14). The peace, joy, and calm that Christianity provides is just a side effect of from disassociating from the world. This isn’t a bolstering of self-esteem; it’s an evasion of the conscience.
- “The good advertiser is not the one who makes people think, but the one who makes people think they are thinking.” Christianity does not ask people to think; it asks them to accept. While Christians still think, many do not think deeply enough.
- Christianity indoctrinates its members people into a pseudo-psychology which misrepresents human nature as being more empty and inadequate than it really is. The church castrates life to make itself look more appealing.
- This is why gory and wrathful Bible verses are popular in conservative churches; they give believers an outlet for otherwise forbidden emotions (e.g., anger, hostility, sadism, masochism, etc.).
- For the brain to correctly process information, it must be presented in a linear progression of small, manageable chunks. Anything not presented in this format will become mysterious and seemingly deep.
- This is why priests are so fond of quoting many different passages from different speakers and stories, and tying them together.
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