Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Unpopular opinions...

A couple of days ago, a comedian who calls himself God shared the following on his Facebook page.

I probably should have thought better of it, but...

I decided to share it to my own Facebook page.  For several hours, it sat unliked and without comments.  Finally, I kicked things off by posting that I don't necessarily think Woody Allen is a pervert.  Some of my friends posted "Agree".  Actually, I was very surprised that no one posted "Disagree", although I did get one "ha ha" reaction.  Once I broke the ice, the thread came to life.

Some of the unpopular opinions were pretty lighthearted.  One person wrote that she thinks Beyonce's voice is average at best (and with that, I happen to agree).  Another "unpopular opinion" came from someone who didn't understand why Game of Thrones is so popular.  Having never seen the show, I have to agree.

Some opinions were more serious.  One person posted that she thinks all presidents should serve at least one tour on active duty in the military.  Frankly, I mostly agree with that, although I don't think it's very realistic.  The type of person who has their sights set on the White House is not going to want to bother with military service.  A lot of them think it's beneath them.  I do think, however, that if you're going to be Commander in Chief, you should have some knowledge about the military and actually being in the military is the best way I know to get that knowledge.  It might also make presidents think twice before sending people off to war.

I got a wild hair up my ass and posted "Mormonism is a cult."  I do have a couple of Mormon friends on my friends list... maybe two or three at the most.  I also have a few religious sympathizers in my world.  I always feel a little weird posting about Mormonism on Facebook, knowing that my negative views of it seem bigoted and wrong.  Lately, I've been posting about it less.  But since this was a thread about "unpopular opinions", I decided to add my two cents.

One friend wrote "Disagree".  The rest wrote "Agree".  One of my friends who commented is a former member.  She's a very proud lesbian who joined the Army to pay for her culinary schooling.  I met her when we waited tables together in Virginia.  She's now in Colorado, working as a chef.  Another friend, I have been told, is a religious sympathizer.  To my surprise, she "agreed" that Mormonism is a cult, although she said it was because it's a Christian religion that isn't Protestant or Catholic.  Actually, that's not at all why I think Mormonism is a cult.

I think Mormonism is a cult because cult expert Rick Ross has described it as such, at least at one time.  The LDS church also fits very neatly into psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton's characterization of what makes a cult.  Lifton's three characteristics of cults are as follows (I shamelessly C/P'd the bolded parts of this from the article I linked).

1. A charismatic leader, who increasingly becomes an object of worship as the general principles that may have originally sustained the group lose power. That is a living leader, who has no meaningful accountability and becomes the single most defining element of the group and its source of power and authority.

* Mormons are very big on their leadership.  Hang around them long enough and you will see many quotes by their leaders, past and present.  They worship church founder, Joseph Smith, as well as their current president, Thomas S. Monson (there's always a middle initial).  Past presidents are constantly quoted and admired.

2. A process [of indoctrination or education is in use that can be seen as] coercive persuasion or thought reform [commonly called "brainwashing"].

The culmination of this process can be seen by members of the group often doing things that are not in their own best interest, but consistently in the best interest of the group and its leader.

Lifton's seminal book Thought Reform and Psychology of Totalism explains this process in considerable detail.

* Anyone who has investigated the LDS church has experienced "lovebombing".  New recruits are given a lot of attention and ego stroking.  They are encouraged to bring in their family members and friends.  Those who aren't in the fold tend to be ostracized.  Church members are asked to do "good works" even if they don't have the time or the means.  Members keep an eye on each other by doing home or visiting teaching and returning and reporting to authorities.  Children have private meetings with bishops and attend summer camps where they take part in activities designed to give them a "burning in the bosom" (which is supposed to mean that the church is "true".)  Members are kept busy and encouraged to hang around people who will not threaten their testimonies.  Members are encouraged to have large families.

3. Economic, sexual, and other exploitation of group members by the leader and the ruling coterie. 

* There has certainly been sexual exploitation within the LDS church, although I definitely don't think it's as much of a thing in the mainstream church as it is with fundamentalist Mormons.  What I have seen is more economic exploitation.  People who are down to their last dimes are encouraged to tithe in order to receive "blessings".  Families are encouraged to leave their estates to the church, especially if one or more family members has done something to fall out with the estate holder.  Families are expected to clean the church's buildings because then the church doesn't have to pay other people to do it.  It also gives them something church related to do on their "day off", although the cleaning duties are supposed to be rotated.  

My husband's ex wife once spent money for the mortgage on a trip to the temple.  She once gave away her daughter's bed to a church family who "needed it more" than the daughter did.  These actions were explained as acts of faith that would lead to blessings.  I'm not sure the blessings ever came.

The article continues with a list of ten signs of a potentially unsafe group.  Again, this material is C/P'd, but you can find it here.

• Absolute authoritarianism without meaningful accountability.

• No tolerance for questions or critical inquiry.

• No meaningful financial disclosure regarding budget or expenses, such as an independently audited financial statement.

• Unreasonable fear about the outside world, such as impending catastrophe, evil conspiracies and persecutions.

• There is no legitimate reason to leave, former followers are always wrong in leaving, negative or even evil.

• Former members often relate the same stories of abuse and reflect a similar pattern of grievances.

• There are records, books, news articles, or broadcast reports that document the abuses of the group/leader.

• Followers feel they can never be "good enough".

• The group/leader is always right.

• The group/leader is the exclusive means of knowing "truth" or receiving validation, no other process of discovery is really acceptable or credible.

While I don't believe that the LDS church is extreme in its cultiness, I can't deny that it does have some of the above characteristics.  Hang around on RfM long enough and you will read a lot of stories about abuse.  Many of the stories have an air of familiarity.  

Anyone who resigns from the church will get a letter and pamphlet letting them know that their "blessings" have been revoked.  Individual members may be okay with people who resign, but as a rule, members collectively disdain people who turn their backs on the "one true church".  I have heard and read more than once that members are pressured to be good... perfect, even, although perfection is impossible.  

And... I have yet to hear about the church opening up its books so that members can see where their tithing is being used.  I have also heard many church people speaking of the "last days" and how those who leave the religion can't be happy and will eventually come to ruin.  

In fairness to Mormonism, I think there are a whole lot of groups that fit the definition of a cult.  Not all of them are religious, either.  For example, last month when I left one of our local Facebook groups, in some ways I almost felt like I was leaving a cult.  Fortunately, it was not something I invested a lot of time or money in, so it wasn't hard to leave and... truthfully, I don't miss it.  I know Bill doesn't miss the LDS church, either, although sometimes I worry that his daughter will try to pull him back in.  I worry what will happen if he meets his grandson, although he has reassured me many times that he won't let his kids manipulate him.  He has also told me that he expects me to keep him straight... be the person on the side of the sinkhole, as it were, towing him to safety if he falls into any mind fuckery.  We shall see about that.    

Anyway... to bring levity back to the thread, I added that I think seatbelts are for sissies.  It's fun to do that, since someone always takes me seriously when I write that.  I usually get a lecture from at least one person.  Actually, I don't think they are for sissies.  I hate wearing them, but I do... because if I don't, Bill turns into Pat Boone.

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