Is that a parody?
It's difficult to tell. I've met people who think like that.
I worked with a guy who was proud that he spanked his grandchildren. I suggested that he learn to talk with them better.
Our congressman had a call in radio town hall meeting about health care. A woman called in and said she doesn't believe in reading books. I suppose to her there is only one book worth reading.
Raised Hindu, I was an atheist by the time I was thirteen after learning about evolution. At sixteen, I attended a tent crusade by a fundamentalist preacher who prayed for the sick. I was mesmerised at the supposed healings and the sheer fun and exhuberance of the audience. The littany of 'I was deaf but now I can hear' testimonies was most convincing. In the mass hysteria, it was not difficult to become 'born again', partly because a cripple could demonstrably now limp without a crutch and partly because it was embarrassing to remain seated when "all who loved the lord" were asked to stand. To avoid detection, you either stand or endure the glare of hundreds of eyes on you. That's the first time any resistance to the lure of the cult gets cracked. It's the first instance that you 'give in'. In the tent crusade experience of becoming born again, it's as much peer pressure as it is mass hypnosis. The sensation is very sudden; it's as if you're letting yourself go, abandoning logic for a miracle. All your senses get hammered, from the moment you 'see' your first miracle, to the warm embraces you feel, to the haunting allure of the organ during the altar call to the guilty dryness of your tongue on your palette for doubting and, finally, to the thick smell of gullibility. In my case, I decided that the only reason I was an atheist was because I didn't believe in miracles. And here, in the tent, miracles where happening right before my eyes. Who was I to argue with that?
I can't speak for other people but my primary reason for becoming a born again christian was that I became convinced that miracles were possible which superseded any of the logic of evolution. Yet evolution still made sense, as much as it could to a naive 16-year-old. When you first indicate that you want to be born again, a lot of people suddenly take an interest in you. They are deacons and elders and well-meaning relatives who descend on you like vultures and quickly sink their hooks into you to make sure you don't slip away. They're like an IT consultant finding a rich client. They pepper you with pamphlets and tracts and books to convince you to stay with them, not unlike the aforementioned consultant. It took a while but I eventually relinquished my conviction in evolution in favour of the Genesis tale. Even then, I wondered if Genesis was a simplified version of evolution. My scientific mind was trying to marry the creation account to my university science lectures.
A secondary reason for my new-found belief was that I was becoming increasingly convinced that the bible was in some mysterious way a manuscript from god to humans. The element of mystery has very powerful allure to the about-to-be-converted. You ask lots of desperate questions and the incredibly stupid answers from very ill-informed people all inexplicably make a lot of sense.
In the five years that I was a christian, I did regrettably convince a few people to become born again. In those people, it was largely because they were terrified of spending eternity in hell which was the consequences of refusing to be born again. Others were comforted by the very appealing idea that the creator of the entire universe was communicating with humanity through the jesus saga. Mostly, they were poorly educated people who could neither fathom the size of the universe nor conceive of humans as merely other animals. But that does a disservice to the many clever and well-trained doctors, lawyers and accountants who are just as humanly vulnerable to a well-executed argument that is wanting in logic.
In apartheid South Africa, acceptance by the church was the first time many people of colour were treated as equals by their pigmentally-challenged counterparts. Ironically, equality was a misnomer masking an inferiority complex. We hankered after their supremacy, to be accepted by them and to claw our way up to their level. If becoming born again made one like them, bring it on!
Over the five years that I kept company with the people who were supposedly healed in the tent crusade, it didn't escape my keen eye that none of them was ever really healed. The blind man who could so miraculously see just because he claimed so always needed a guide to make it from the car to his pew. At the crusade, in the test by the preacher, he was able to follow the movement of a finger held close to his face which convinced who knows how many sceptics in the audience. He never failed to testify about his sight. I think the sad reality is that he was very close-sighted and could just about make out his own feet. Left alone, he could just as easily have wandered into the nearest ditch. It only takes an instant for an illusion like that in the emotionally charged atmosphere of a tent crusade to make an indelible mark on the observer. It takes years to come to terms with the actual chicanery at play.
Five years into being born again, I took a course on the origins of christianity and made the equally startling discovery that the bible was simply a collection of documents by people with one or other agenda. Mostly, it seemed to be about controlling people. Falling out of the faith, the reverse of the 'born again' feeling is just as powerful. You wrestle with non-existent demons that you didn't even know existed...hehe...but that's a conversation for a different thread.
Because all your friends are telling you to go, and you are curious to see this new lifestyle, and possibly adapt your philosophy to accomodate some of their sermons.
A few hours later, you find yourself intimidated, scared and lonely and ashamed of yourself for being less than a person, and they tell you that your life is more pathetic than a worm squirming on a hot sidewalk, but that they have the cure. So you go on your knees, with tears streaming down your face, while people come over to were you are kneeling and lay their hands on you and after a life time of groveling and begging, you stand up. You feel lightheaded, but not different, but over time you become more terrified, your new friends become critical of your life, how you dress, what music you listen too, how you think and how you spend your free time.
Is it brainwashing?
It seems to me that it is. I've read that the chant's and music have been scientifically proven to put people into trances and to make them more susceptible to the power of suggestion. I read something about a beat frequency oscillation of 8 hz (?) that makes hypnosis through music easier to accomplish. Someone with more understanding of this may be able to provide more answers.
As far as I can tell, for a feeling of legitimacy, respectability (go figure!) and belonging. Some of the BAC people I know used to party hard, ended up as single parents, and are now desperately trying to proove they are good, serious people. A lot of them used to be rebels, and are now a bit scared that they cannot control their own lives without a simple, compelling structure. BA christianity fits that niche lovely, and is common and respectable. I try to point out that Fascism used to be popular too, and would cover the same points, but to no avail.
The attraction seems to be twofold: first, there is the idea that everyone is a sinner (no-one can control their life, and your mistakes are the same as everyone elses and have a source outside yourself)
Secondly, you can find redemption in the lord (Follow these simple rules and your problems will go away. If it doesn't work you didn't believe enough, or else god is testing you and it is supposed to happen this way.)
So you get to step away from the responsibility for your mistakes, the fear of which made you look for something like it in the first place, and a simple, straightforward structure to your life which seems to do away with all the confusion that figuring out what you want your life to mean to YOU brings with it.