Recently (through Guruphiliac on Facebook) I found this article (in five parts) about the Rajneeshee commune that used to be in Oregon in the 80's. TLDR: swami moves to Oregon, buys 100 square mile ranch, tries to establish a commune/town and butts up against the local constabulary/zoning officials, which results in poisoning of the local public, poisoning of officials, arson, attempted murder, a pitiful attempt at voter fraud, and just general meanness. Swami deported (to rise again with a different name), scheming minions arrested, ranch sold to someone who turned it into a xian youth camp (of course).*
I've also recently sponged up Going Clear by Lawrence Wright, Under the Banner of Heaven by Jack Krakauer, and am contemplating the new biography of Charles Manson by Jeff Guinn (although I remember how squeamish I got when I read Helter Skelter when I was younger, and keep putting it down when I glance through it at the bookstore). Just to name a few off the top of my head. (Oh and The Man in the Rockefeller Suit which is more evil con man story than anything, but still gets clumped in my head with the others.)
It just makes me wonder: why am I drawn to this stuff? Is it the lure of the mesmerizing leader? Is it the many acts of grotesque evil that are committed in the name of religion? Is it the blind followers who do what they're told without question? or the followers who stand up to make a difference? Given my past involvement in Landmark Education, which while not a religion still has cult-like tendencies, my guess is all of that and more. I think I still bare a bit of shame at being drawn into Landmark so easily, so perhaps by reading through these books I can more readily spot those wretched individuals who take advantage of others. Perhaps that is my altruistic reason. And another reason would just be that I want to sit and smoke my schadenfreude pipe. Also I've often thought that if I ever had the means to go back to school, this is what I would study-the cult of personality, the religious being irreligious, the followers who need someone to tell them what to do. I just find it fascinating.
So I guess the question is: what's your "traffic accident" (should look away, can't look away) guilty pleasure in the realm of religiosity? Also any other books that you've read along this line that you would recommend?
Thanks for reading! Reg
*I kept thinking as I read the article that they went about this the wrong way and instead should have taken as an example of a successful overtaking of a town from our own Iowa city of Fairfield, which hosts (albeit reluctantly in the beginning) the Maharishi "university" to which people from all over the world flock to in a deluded attempt to learn flying meditation. But that's beside the point, I suppose.
The Jonestown story is heartwrenching. These charismatic leaders seem very people-oriented. But they also distance themselves from their followers. I don't think anyone around Jim Jones would really have known him as a person. He was too busy with his Mission. Same for Jesus.
The cult leaders are trying to satisfy a need for love and acceptance and safety by surrounding themselves with followers. And with the religion they can avoid being seen as a human being.
I knew someone who was a bit of a cult leader. He was a Communist atheist though. Very idealistic, full of hostile judgement, controlling.
One becomes wary of anything idealistic, seeing how badly idealism is perverted by cult leaders - and, many would say, by religion in general.
Luara, I've also become wary of anything idealistic. Also, anyone that wants to be, or acts like they want to be my friend instantly, or too quickly.
I knew someone once who wanted to be a "new age superstar"-his words. He was a chauvinistic, narcissistic, manipulative bastard.
"chauvinistic, narcissistic, manipulative bastard" is a good way to describe many of the ministers I have known. Standing up and leading, thinking they have all-wisdom and implying others wallow in their misery not knowing which way to turn. Out steps this chauvinistic, narcissistic, manipulative bastard, ready to get out in front and lead.
It is the quiet, peaceful, compassionate, caring, and untroubled one that I can sit down with and ask questions of or make statements of my own that appeals to me. Not a Pollyanna, or a dreamer without the energy to act. I enjoy a person with fire in his/her belly over an issue that matters to him/her, someone who inspires as he/she talks, and has ideas based on principles.
An easy example is the person who realizes that food grown in one's garden has the potential to provide better nutrition than agri-business puts out. That statement then becomes an options exploration of "How can I accomplish this in the situation in which I am in?" or "What do I need to do differently than I am now doing?"
That becomes the foundation upon which is born an idea to accomplish an idea. The idea becomes transformed into research, discussions, explorations, inventions, innovations, and something happens.
The next thing one might see is a new structure or a different mechanism designed to feed one. The design turns into a piece of furniture or a building, or an addition to a place. Food begins to emerge and an evaluation occurs to determine if the goal has been reached. If yes, keep on doing what has been done. If no, put into place Plan B. Wash/Rinse/Repeat.
Fire in the belly-yes. And some compassion and empathy for one's fellow wanderers on this planet and you have a good start to improving the lot of everyone, not just yourself or those in your immediate circle.
I like the way you think, Joan!
Reg, thanks for the affirmation. When I read your fist post and each one since, I felt encouraged and inspired. Isn't if fun to think without restrictions, and feel with all the emotions available to one.
Hope your day is filled to overflowing of things you value.
I always feel inspired when I skulk around here! Ready to take on the world and embrace the challenges. You've inspired me to expand my attitude to not give a flying fuck what others might think about me as well.
My days are filled with cold and snow and I stare out the window at my hibernating garden. Someday... Maybe I'll go turn the pages of the seed catalog again.
That's the way to get from here to there, think and act. A nice way to live a life.
We had a heavy snow dump of seven inches a day or two ago, and now it is trying to rain it away. Just a big slushy mess. Spring is on the way!
Sam Harris, "Free Will"; "The End of Faith".
Harris did write 'Letter to a Christian Nation.' It was in response to all the hate mail and death threats he received from the good christians who read 'The End of Faith.'
I've read "The End of Faith" but not "Free Will." Will add it to the list! Thanks Sam!