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October 30, 2010

Cults and Creeds, Tumults and Greeds, part 2


Formless spiritual. Father, Word and Holy Breath. Allfather, the heavenly man. Hiesos Kristos, magician of the beautiful, the Logos who suffers in us at every moment. This verily is that. I am the fire upon the altar. I am the sacrificial butter. (James Joyce, Ulysses)

The top ten world religions (according to wikipedia) are: Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Folk religions, Buddhism, Chinese religions (Taoism, Confucianism), Shintoism, Sikhism, Judaism, Bahà’ì.

What are religions and are they dangerous? What are cults and are they dangerous? Can new religions be invented or are we doomed to choose from millennia-old, dusty, musty, crusty belief systems? I was surprised to find a list of hundreds of new religious movements on the internet. Are they new religions or cults?

Our country, don’t forget, was formed by cultists: Pilgrims, Puritans, Quakers, Mennonites, Congregationalists, Shakers, Anabaptists, Amish—little groups of outcasts bound together by their defiance of the status quo.

Cults are defined as : ‘a social group sometimes accused of mentally, physically, or sexually controlling its members.’ ‘A religion or religious sect generally considered to be extremist or false, with its followers often living in an unconventional manner under the guidance of an authoritarian, charismatic leader.’ ‘A quasi-religious organization using devious psychological techniques to gain and control adherents.’

Words associated with cults by their critics are: indoctrination, isolation, destructive, elitist, separatist, totalitarian, authoritarian, dangerous, fear, violence, brain-washing, mind-control, physical restriction (some adherents have to be abducted by anti-cultists)—in sum, not a very happy picture.

Examples (from various government lists): Order of the Solar Temple, Falun Gong, People’s Temple, Branch Davidians, Heaven’s Gate, Hare Krishna, Transcendental Meditation, Opus Dei, Rastafarians, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Unification Church, Rosicrucians, Satanists, OSHO movement, Aum Shinri Kyo, Concerned Christians, Nation of Islam, Voodoo, Wicca, and many more. I’ve known members of several of these groups, and, frankly, they’re scary.

There are two large cults in the U.S., both of which prefer to be called churches: Mormonism and Scientology.

On a recent trip to Salt Lake City I stayed in the house of a sister-wife, one of the wives in a polygamist harem. The hostess treated us suspiciously. Around town the Mormons seemed a bit like people in a creepy movie, walking around smiling, heads full of holy thoughts. Then I met an ex-Mormon in California, and he went on and on about Mormon underwear and how The Saints pressure and coerce their flock to keep it in line like yapping sheepdogs. Another disquieting zealot.

Are you worried by Scientology? Invented by a science fiction writer, it seems like an elaborate joke. Why the huge draw on actors? And how should we view an actor’s work when we know he/she is a cultist in real life? It shouldn’t matter, right? But it does.

Want a list? (from the internet, may contain inaccuracies)

Scientologist Celebrities:
Adam Beason
Adjowa Hayes
Angelo Pagan
Anita Mally
Anne Archer
Beck Hansen
Beth Riesgraf
Bijou Phillips
Billy Sheehan
Bodhi Elfman
Catherine Bell
Chick Corea
Christopher Masterson
Corin Nemec
Danny Masterson
Darius Brubeck
Dave Brubeck
David Campbell
Doug Dohring
Doug E Fresh
Eddie Deezen
Edgar Winter
Eduardo Palomo (dec.)
Erika Christensen
Ernie Reyes Jr.
Ethan Suplee
Geoffrey Lewis
Giovanni Ribisi
Greta Van Susteren
Haywood Nelson
Isaac Hayes (dec.)
James Packer
James Stacy Barbour
Jason Dohring
Jason Lee
Jeff Conaway
Jeff Pomerantz
Jeffrey Tambor
Jenna Elfman
Jennifer Aspen
Jim Meskimen
John Travolta
Johnny Lewis
Judy Norton Taylor
Julia Migenes
Juliette Lewis
Karen Black
Kate Ceberano
Katie Holmes
Kelly Preston
Kimberley Kates
Kirstie Alley
Laura Prepon
Leah Remini
Lee Purcell
Lightfield Lewis
Lisa Marie Presley
Lynsey Bartilson
Mariah O’Brien
Marisol Nichols
Marissa Ribisi
Mark Isham
Michael D. Roberts
Michael Fairman
Michael Peña
Michelle Stafford
Milton Katselas (dec.)
Mutt & Jeff
Nancy Cartwright
Nicky Hopkins (dec.)
Pablo Santos (dec.)
Pamela Roberts
Patrick Renna
Paul Haggis
Peaches Geldof
Persia White
Placido Domingo Jr.
Priscilla Presley
Richard Elfman
Ruddy Rodriguez
Sharon Case
Sky Dayton
Sofia Milos
Sonny Bono (dec.)
Tom Constanten
Tom Cruise
Tyler Hynes
Xavier Deluc

Former Scientologist Celebrities:
Al Jarreau
Brad Pitt
Candice Bergen
Cathy Lee Crosby
Charles Manson
Demi Moore
Diana Canova
Emilio Estevez
Frank Stallone
Gloria Gaynor
Gloria Swanson (dec.)
J.D. Salinger (dec.)
Jason Beghe
Jerry Seinfeld
John Brodie
Kate Capshaw
Katharine McPhee
Larry Anderson
Leif Garrett
Leonard Cohen
Linda Blair
Melanie (Safka)
Mimi Rogers
Neil Gaiman
Nicole Kidman
Oliver Stone
Olivia D’Abo
Patrick Swayze (dec.)
Paul Haggis
Peggy Lipton
Quincy Jones
Ricky Martin
Robert Hunter
Sharon Stone
Stanley Clarke
Stephen Boyd (dec.)
Van Morrison
William S. Burroughs (dec.)

Rumored Scientologist Celebrities:
Anne Francis
Barbara Carrera
Bernadette Peters
Cassandra Hepburn
Chaka Khan
Christopher Reeve (dec.)
Deborah Rennard
Eileen Brennan
Esai Morales
Gordon Lightfoot
Horst Buchholtz (dec.)
Jada Pinkett Smith
John Savage
Lou Rawls (dec.)
Mikhail Baryshnikhov
Rock Hudson (dec.)
Ron Ely
Ron Wood
Shirley Maclaine
Will Smith

Does this list mean anything? Yes. What? I don’t know.

I’ll leave it to you to expand the topic through your own research. Talk to a current member and an ex-member of any group that interests you to get perspective. Don’t ignore spirituality. Make up your own mind. But don’t go into a room where they lock the door.

Sitting all together with a congregation of like-minded people, dressed up, chanting comforting nonsense, standing, sitting, singing, hoping for the common purpose to be realized before our eyes, praying for victory … wait, am I talking about spectator sports? The Giants in the World Series again? Sorry, got distracted. Maybe the cults don’t have such a hold on me after all. Or maybe being a sports fan is, emotionally, the same drug.

Happy trials, Martin


Mutt: Tell me, my friend, do you know the difference between a well dressed man and a dog?
Jeff: No, I don’t, my friend.
Mutt: The man wears a suit, the dog just pants.
Jeff: Fine. Do you know the difference between a crazy rabbit and a counterfeit coin?
Mutt: I’m afraid not.
Jeff: One is bad money, and the other is a mad bunny.
Mutt: Ahhh. But what is the difference between an ornithologist and a stutterer?
Jeff: Go on.
Mutt: One is a bird watcher, and the other is a word botcher.
Jeff: What is the difference between a miser and a canary?
Mutt: Enlighten me.
Jeff: One's a little cheap and the other is a little cheeper.
Mutt: As long as we’re doing animal humor …
Jeff: Humor?
Mutt: The difference between a unicorn and lettuce? One is a funny beast and the other is a bunny feast.
Jeff: Animal?
Mutt: Okay, what then is the difference between one yard and two yards?
Jeff: A fence.
Mutt: Jolly good.

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