|Sun Myung Moon|
When I was a teenager in the 70's, 'religious cults' were all the rage in the news. Of course, the Manson murders and the Jonestown mass suicides had a lot to do with that. There were tons of stories about parents hiring 'deprogrammers' to rescue their children from religious cults.
Among the most infamous and most visible of these cults were the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (known as the 'Hare Krishnas')* and The Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity, or more simply the Unification Church, led by the Reverend Sun Myung Moon. Moon claimed that Jesus came to him at the age of 15 and implored him to spread a message that combined Christianity, Judaism, Islam and traditional Korean beliefs. The 'Moonies' are probably best known for the mass-marriages performed by Moon himself -- most notably at Madison Square Garden in 1982.
Moon died today at the age of 92, his 'church' having become a rather lucrative business over the years, which includes the ownership of The Washington Times. I am sure that Moonies all over the world are wailing and gnashing their teeth. Moon's children have long ago taken over running the church, so I doubt his death will stop the flow of millions of dollars, yen and baht to their pockets.
Here's the thing: To me, all religions are cults. They indoctrinate their followers with promises of eternal life and threats of eternal damnation. 'God' says to them "I love you but if you don't obey me, I'll send you to hell." Really? Did your parents ever tell you that if you didn't listen to them you would suffer eternal damnation? I'm so sorry if they did.
Religion grew out of fear of the unknown. Early men (and women) ascribed all kinds of powers to invisible beings who controlled things they didn't understand, like lightning and earthquakes. The smarter and more ambitious of them used this ignorance to their advantage in order to control and dominate the weaker and less intelligent members of their tribes. As language evolved and writing came into regular use, the priests and shamans carved their gods' rules into tablets and inked them onto scrolls, claiming they were dictated directly by whatever deity they followed. Sadly, men remain rather superstitious creatures and still follow ancient texts written by ignorant men who only wanted to control others through fear.
Sun Myung Moon and his ilk are no different from Joseph Smith, the Pope, Pat Robertson and Billy Graham. Deluded by texts written by people who had no knowledge of science, these men still believe that Bronze-Age barbarians had conversations with a 'higher being' who told them that pork and shellfish are 'abominations' and sex is filthy and should only ever be used for procreation. All of it makes my head hurt.
*In 1967, James Rado, Gerome Ragni and Galt Macdermot used the Hare Krishnas' mantra as part of a number in their anti-establishment musical Hair. It's one of my favorite numbers from that show. Below is Academy Award-winning director Milos Forman's hallucinogenic version of it from his 1979 film version (one of the few movies I saw on a 'date' with girl):
Of course, science has proven that many of the 'visions' described in the Bible were probably the result of ingesting one of the many natural hallucinogens available to ancient 'prophets,' much like those ingested or smoked by the shamans of indigenous Western peoples. Today, xenophobia and homophobia remain the most powerful building blocks for modern religions. Here's hoping that one day, those fears will be absolutely refuted and religion will fall the way of the dinosaurs.