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Cargo Cult


wonderer
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First post on this great site. Like Star Stuff, I'm celebrating my 25th year of liberation from Christianity. I was raised until my 10th year without religion by a (non-practicing) Southern Baptist father and a (non-practicing) Jewish mother. It was left to me to find my own way, and I became a Presbyterian. I made the mistake of mentioning this in front of my father and mother, who one day were attempting to convince a visiting Southern Baptist minister that we were a Baptist family. Instantly, I became a Southern Baptist. The very next Sunday, my father took me to the minister's Southern Baptist church and dropped me off, and from then until I left home at 16, I was a Southern Baptist.

 

Within 6 months, I was kicked out of Sunday school. This was because I continued to ask questions about the hell and damnation I was hearing about. (Little children go to Hell, for example, if no one tells them about Jesus before they die.) These things made no sense at all to me. From then on, I had to sit alone in the empty church while everybody else was in Sunday school, waiting for the main service to begin. This really got me to wondering about what the point of Christianity was. One of the things that struck me was that the Sunday school teacher had taught that Jesus said to let the little children come to him, and that his message was simple enough that a child could understand it. Well, here I was: a child who had come to ask questions about Jesus, and ended up getting evicted.

 

Oh, NO! Has this ever happened to you? To all of you who are struggling to leave this sordid, misbegotten travesty of a religion: THIS IS A CLUE! Forget all of the other complicated theological debates and historical research about the origins of Christianity: This is the true test. If a child can't understand it or worse, isn't allowed to question it in order to figure it out, IT ISN'T WORTH SHIT!

 

But I digress...

 

The next insult to my intelligence happened on a Sunday in my 15th year. By then, my father and mother were attending church every Sunday, pretending to be Christians. On this fateful Sunday, my aunt, uncle and cousin Jerry came to our house for a visit. When they arrived, I was sitting in my room, minding my own business, playing my guitar. Jerry walked into my room, looked at my guitar, and asked me to stop playing it. I wasn't that bad of a guitar player. :Hmm: So I asked him, "Why?" He responded with, "Because it's against our religion."

 

Now this was a new one. I was truly stumped. How on earth could my playing the guitar be against their religion? So I asked him that, and he replied, "We don't believe in playing musical instruments on Sunday." OK, I admit I was a smartass kid who was truly fed up with religion at that point, but I thought I had a point: "But Jerry, you aren't playing a musical instrument. I am."

 

"It's the same thing."

"How could it be the same thing?"

"Because I'm in the same room with you."

"Where did this ridiculous idea come from?"

"From God."

"God told you not to play a musical instrument on Sunday, or even be in the same room with somebody playing one?"

"That's right."

"Why would God tell you such a thing? Doesn't it say in the Psalms to praise God with musical instruments?"

"We don't question our religion."

"Why not?"

"Because it might make us doubt."

"But isn't doubting your religion and then overcoming your doubt the true test of religion?"

 

Jerry then left my room and reported my heresy to his parents, who complained to my parents. My mother, who (keep in mind) had never converted to Christianity in the first place, came into my room and said:

 

"Robert, put the guitar away!"

"Why?"

"Because you're upsetting Jerry!"

"Maybe he needs upsetting!"

"Can't you just get along with him?"

"Sure! He can leave me alone, and we'll get along just fine."

"Robert! Stop causing trouble!"

"OK, OK."

 

So, Jerry comes back into my room as I'm putting my guitar into its case. I decide to play a Beach Boys album. Then I look at Jerry, and he's shaking his head.

 

"Let me guess: It's against your religion to play an album on Sunday?"

"That's right."

 

By now, you're probably wondering what all of this has to do with a Cargo Cult. For those of you reading this who don't know what a cargo cult is, Wikipedia defines it this way:

 

...from time to time, the term "cargo cult" is invoked as an English language idiom, to mean any group of people who imitate the superficial exterior of a process or system without having any understanding of the underlying substance.

 

The most famous examples of cargo cults are Pacific islanders who had seen supplies dropped by parachute to US Marines during WWII. These islanders for many years afterwards would dress up like Marines, build "airfields" and airplanes made out of twigs, and perform various rituals in hopes that God (or gods) would drop cargo to them, too. The fact that it never actually worked did little to discourage them, and in fact, one of these cargo cults (the cult of John Frum on the island of Tanna, Vanuatu) persists to this day. (Read more about Cargo Cults on Wikipedia.)

 

Most of the WWII Cargo Cults have vanished into history. Why? Because the old folks who actually witnessed the parachute drops have passed away, and at some point, the younger generation became impatient when God never again flew over their villages and dropped supplies on their heads.

 

Christianity is the ultimate Cargo Cult. It is an attempt by ignorant and self-serving men to imitate people who actually understand what Jesus was trying to say: that a relationship with the Creator of the universe is a personal and private matter, and doesn't have anything at all to do with theology, doctrines, laws or organized religion.

 

It's OK to leave Christianity, because it has nothing to do with Jesus, or of the simple truths Jesus (and other Teachers before and after him) spoke about. Look at it this way: If what Jesus had to offer was peace, and what he had to say was Truth - simple enough that a child can understand it - then all you have to do to be childlike and wonder about it all. Open your mind and heart and just be. It's OK to to feel angry at the Cargo Cultists, and OK to feel confused; and it's OK to feel scared to leave what you know - but just do it. Go and be free.

 

Rob

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This is a very interesting testimony, Rob. Welcome to the site...

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Rob, I'm new to the forum myself. Thank you for your testimony. And that's a great analogy for Christianity... cargo cults. I wish I had heard about them before! Thank you for enlightening and I look forward to reading your posts.

 

"Christianity is the ultimate Cargo Cult. It is an attempt by ignorant and self-serving men to imitate people who actually understand what Jesus was trying to say: that a relationship with the Creator of the universe is a personal and private matter, and doesn't have anything at all to do with theology, doctrines, laws or organized religion."

 

Very well put.

 

I have to ask... any other stories about your cousin? I can imagine your frustration as I feel very insulted when fanatics are guests in my or my parents' home and have the gall to tell me what I can and cannot do. Though now I'm an adult (ha!), it's my way or the highway if a fundy comes into my home.

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Wonderer

 

I admire your ability, at a very young age, to withstand the forces of condescention and intimidation. It surely could not have been easy could it?

 

Somehow I'm thinking that your parents half encouraged you to think for yourself and not take crap off others. The incident with the cousin being a temporary suprression of your will???

 

Very interesting in any case.

 

Mongo

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Fantastic story Rob. Your mother's reaction was priceless.

 

Your cousin Jerry's actions remind me of when I was at my most fundamentalist. I was offended by all kinds of stuff, and l let people know it too. What a burden I must have been on them. Yechh..!!

 

Eventually I wondered, if God is on my side, why aren't I "strong" enough to cope with this "defeated" world? If I have the Power of God with me or in me or whatever, shouldn't these attempts by the world to "get" me be like water of a duck's back? And why am I, the super christian, such a burden on these people who, despite not knowing god, seem so level headed and happy with their lives, and I, "knower of thruth", were not?

 

I finally figured out, just like you, that IT ISN'T WORTH SHIT!

 

Welcome to ex-c.

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Thank you all for your kind replies. This is a tough subject, isn't it? Would any of you be surprised to learn that I wandered the earth after I left home at 16, trying every sort of mind altering religion, lifestyle and hallucinogenic drug, only to come full circle and end up a Penetcostal youth minister?

 

It's a long, long tale, probably best told in chapters. My cousin Jerry? Turns out he and my entire family on my father's side in North Carolina belonged to a holiness sect, called Old Apostolic Lutheran. The women wore black, never cut their hair, wore no makeup or jewely. TV, movies, alcohol, dancing, cards and other games -- all forbidden. They believed playing musical instruments in worship services was sinful, because it would distract from communion with the Spirit. They believed they were filled with the Holy Spirit, and were empowered to speak in tongues, lay hands on the sick and heal them through the power of prayer, claim wealth and prosperity as children of God, etc., etc.

 

They were also the unhappiest group of people it would ever be your misfortune to meet, and every one of them was on Valium or some other mood stabilizer. That should have been a clue, don't you think? How could someone be filled with the power of God, and be miserable at the same time? Simple answer: They couldn't -- unless, of course, the God whose spirit they were filled with was also miserable and unhappy. The truth is that they were Cargo Cultists. They imitated what they thought were God's Marines, spiritual warriors going into battle with rifles made of twigs and bayonets made of straw. Of course, the demons they fought slaughtered them! They made the demons themselves. That's a battle no one can win.

 

I think you are right - my mother gave me the strength of will to fight this mental illness. I had some dark years, that's the truth. Eventually, in a weak and desperate state, I gave in to some "Jesus Freaks" whose gentle pursuading led me to my own "spiritual awakening." It was a purely private and pure moment, where I found out who I was, and that I was OK. Unfortunately I, like millions of people who came before me, was surrounded by (mostly) well-meaning people who were eager to interpret my epiphany in Biblical terms. Before I had had a chance to absorb what had happened to me, I was already under heavy indoctrination into Charismatic/Pentecostal doctrine and theology.

 

Later, I learned to use this same technique - taking advantage of weakened people who had just had some sort of emotional crisis of self, and programming them to become fundamentalist Christians. Why did we do it? To reinforce our belief that we were the chosen ones, to get that spiritual high that came from seeing our handiwork, to feed our flagging enthusiasm for doing God's will.

 

For 7 long years I burrowed deeper and deeper into Pentecostalism. I laid hands on the sick and, along with my brothers and sisters in the Lord, pretended that the lame were made to walk, and the blind to see. I played every mind game, perverted every shred of honesty in the name of God. But through it all, there was still that little child within me, the one who got kicked out of Sunday school all those years before, that kept saying in a tiny little voice, "But this isn't real. No one is really being healed. No one is really a propet - none of their so-called prophesies come true." I also knew prayers weren't really answered, claiming wealth did not put food on the table, and nobody really ever told anyone else how they truly felt about anything, for fear they would be labeled as demon-possessed.

 

I would have to say that I gave it 110% of my heart and soul, and sucked who knows how many other unfortunate souls into what can rightfully be called a mental illness. I regret that I did that - it's probably my biggest regret. It ultimately led to the destruction of my family, when it came down to leaving this hell on earth, or staying and pretending I still believed. I asked my wife to come with me, and she refused. I had to leave for my own sanity, and never went back. That was 25 years ago. I was a wreck, washed up on the shore of life - one foot in heaven, and the other in hell.

 

Then I found a wonderful woman (Isn't that how it so often goes?) who saw who I really was, and believed in the man I could become. With her strength to lean on, and with 12 years of therapy, I was able to finally be healed.

 

I think I have a unique view of religion - especially Christianity. I know how the beast works, and I've been to Hell and have come back from the dead. I know why people believe, even when the evidence of their own eyes refutes their beliefs; I know how people can torment one another, even while singing praises to God. I know how lies become truth, and how truth becomes reviled. I know how deep loneliness can be, when to gain your own soul you have to lose family, friends, community, church and God - all at once.

 

Maybe more importantly, I know how to live through all of this, and come out happy at the other end. Today, I can truthfully say that I am free - free of religion, free of guit, and free of fear. I'm not a Christian, I don't subscribe to any religion at all, and I harbor no ill will toward the sad and misguided people who brought me to the heights of spiritual ecstasy, only to turn their backs on me when I began to question what we were doing. I do believe in something, however.

 

I believe that we draw real nourishment from simply wondering about the universe, speaking the truth, and putting our own superficial needs aside to help others. I have found that it isn't necessary to define what some people call the spirit, and it isn't necessary to read any particular book, nor recite any particular mantra, to be happy. It's OK not to know how the universe works, or where it came from, or worry about where it's going. It's OK to be imperfect, and it's not necessary to feel guilt about it.

 

So, if anyone reading this is struck by anything I've said, feel free to ask away, or comment. I love talking about this stuff! If I can help ease the way for anyone struggling to drop the chains of religion, it would be my honor.

 

 

Rob

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Wow that is a neat testimony really. Welcome to the board.

 

I never heard of cargo cults before but that is really interesting story. I am glad you found this site you will not be dissaponited here.

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Wow, what a testimony!

 

I'm surprised that you went on into Pentacostalism and even became a minister after that confrontation with your cousin. I would have high-tailed it out of there as soon as I could, but I speak as a 47-year-old who left xianity two years ago after being born and raised in it, so the same question could be asked of me. You've been out of the xian cult for 25 years, woohoo :woohoo: , myself only for two.

 

Freedom is wonderful!

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Wow, what a testimony!

 

I'm surprised that you went on into Pentacostalism and even became a minister after that confrontation with your cousin. I would have high-tailed it out of there as soon as I could, but I speak as a 47-year-old who left xianity two years ago after being born and raised in it, so the same question could be asked of me. You've been out of the xian cult for 25 years, woohoo :woohoo: , myself only for two.

 

Freedom is wonderful!

 

When I meet people today, and if the subject comes around in conversation, they have trouble believing that I was once a hard-core Pentecostal. They can't equate my personality, intellect and education with their idea of what a "bible thumper" ought to be like. I would make an excellent case study for people who are trying to understand right wing Evangelical/Pentecostal crusaders who are trying to take over the US.

 

People can fall into fundamentalism for any number of reasons, and even intelligent, educated intellectuals can succumb - if the conditions are right. Some, like I was, are lonely, afraid, lacking purpose and direction; others are seduced by the promise of power; still others by the illusion of joining a "family" or community. It's all about emotions which, by their nature, are not bound by intellect. Separate the heart from the mind, and you can control anyone. It works with advertising and politics, so it should come as no surprise that it's just as effective with religion.

 

Rob

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Rob,

 

I'm on a similar wavelength. I'm not stupid and I never abandoned my loyalty to science during my xtian years. I merely ignored the evidence while I explored the spiritual side of the question.

 

The wonderful part about my experience is that I fully concluded on a spiritual level that god didn't exist and that we must engage our minds to explore life and find answers.

 

A big door opened for me when I decided to submit all questions of any kind to my own observations. If god answers prayer, I would keep a mental track of prayer requests that others make and compare that to follow up questions later on. Anyone can do this quite innocuously. The findings always make god look indifferent at best.

 

I would make an excellent case study for people who are trying to understand right wing Evangelical/Pentecostal crusaders who are trying to take over the US.

 

Do you have any thoughts on Haggard? I keep flipping in opinion between him abandoning his religion and making a living out of atheism (tough) or doing like Swaggart and claim repentance and healing?

 

I think the people who follow them are addicted to their preaching and would rather pretend the bugger repented than lose the "fine preaching" they get each Sunday.

 

Mongo

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Rob,

 

I'm on a similar wavelength. I'm not stupid and I never abandoned my loyalty to science during my xtian years. I merely ignored the evidence while I explored the spiritual side of the question.

 

The wonderful part about my experience is that I fully concluded on a spiritual level that god didn't exist and that we must engage our minds to explore life and find answers.

 

A big door opened for me when I decided to submit all questions of any kind to my own observations. If god answers prayer, I would keep a mental track of prayer requests that others make and compare that to follow up questions later on. Anyone can do this quite innocuously. The findings always make god look indifferent at best.

 

Do you have any thoughts on Haggard? I keep flipping in opinion between him abandoning his religion and making a living out of atheism (tough) or doing like Swaggart and claim repentance and healing?

 

I think the people who follow them are addicted to their preaching and would rather pretend the bugger repented than lose the "fine preaching" they get each Sunday.

 

Mongo

 

Hey Mongo,

 

That's actually how I (slowly) got out of it - by making observations and hearing no rational explanation of what I was seeing. the more observations I made, the more estranged I became from my wife and friends. Finally, my wife got the whole church praying for me to "see the light," and the harder they prayed, the more clearly I saw how corrupt the whole situation really was. Finally, my wife accused me of deliberately refusing to "accept" the healing the church was claiming from God for me. I looked at her and said, "Do you believe in the power of prayer, or not? If all of you believe, and all of you are praying that I will see the truth, then maybe your prayers are being answered. Did you consider that?" She just shook her head and ended up leaving me.

 

Haggard?

 

No way he's going to do anything except come clean, beg for forgiveness, get healed, turn the healing into a revival, and add more converts and money to his organization.

 

Rob

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