I’m just baffled that they put this on their website without a hint of irony. The bold questions are directly lifted.
- Were you approached to join in a moment of weakness? Well let’s think. I was baptized as an infant, and let’s not forget how often priests and pastors show up to talk to the grieving to “comfort” them that their loved ones are going to a better place. Not to mention church groups that feed the homeless and then proselytize, or the “higher power” that 12-step programs prattle on about.
- Are you incapable of leaving? This is just silly. You can’t leave any church because if you do you’ll be damned to an eternity of hellfire and agony, dooming your soul to everlasting torment. Incapable of leaving? Hell, they make it impossible to avoid joining.
- Do the leaders or members higher up in the organization enjoy tossing out shame, guilt and insults? If I had a nickel for how many times I was somewhere and found myself with a religious figure guilting/shaming/insulting me, I’d have… well, I’d have six or seven nickels, but by golly that’s six or seven nickels too damn many. I love that they actually point out that in cults, you aren’t allowed to question authority. Quick check: how well does questioning the judgment of a clerical figure go in most religions?
- Do you feel isolated from loved ones? There are scads of pamphlets and websites explaining why associating with nonbelievers isn’t just frowned upon, but doing so is actually dangerous to the believer. Which is to say nothing of the Jews who quite literally believe that it’s a mortal sin to marry someone outside the faith. The only, and I do mean only, reason a Christian group could say something like this is if they honestly believe that being Christian is just a “default” state and so have no idea what it’d be like if they picked up a single member of an atheist family and tried to convert them.
- Have absolute truth claims ever slipped into the conversation? This just has to be a fucking joke. Once I hit #5 I had to spend another fifteen minutes reading various portions of the website to convince myself I wasn’t being pranked by another Landover Baptist kind of satirical website. The entire paragraph is just far too descriptive of general theistic belief that I refuse to accept that this guy wrote it down without choking on the irony.
- Is your reading material censored? Unless I’m mistaken, books have been banned for religious reasons for about as long as there were books, right down to wanting the Bible not to be printed in English lest the commoners be capable of opening it and understanding the text. And wasn’t it just a few years ago that whole idiotic fury over Harry Potter happened? Or, to be fair, the fatwah declared against Salman Rushdie, all over a book he wrote?
- Can your “friends” keep a secret? I’m actually not sure what’s going on in this one, to be frank. It seems like he’s talking about members spying on each other in order to go up in the organization, which is the kind of thing that only applies that much to situations where the entire cult lives in a single compound. Although I’m pretty sure church kids are encouraged to tell on their friends if they’re speaking blasphemy.
- Are you expected to hand over money or possessions to move up? One thing I definitely recall from my church days was the basket being passed around. Honestly I kinda understood it in the sense that our little church did it (part went to a charity group, most went to general maintenance and upkeep of the building), but when the damn site with this list has the Jim Bakker story on it I’m seriously doubting that I’m not wasting my time by ripping apart a list that was written solely to elicit the kind of reaction I’m having right now. I may be dealing with one hell of a Jonathan Swift here.
- Do you have to go to a meeting to even understand what the organization is about? Head… exploding. Although I suppose in most theists’ minds, going to church/mass/temple isn’t a “meeting” so much as it is a gathering for believers to worship and whatnot. But still, we’re talking about a situation where a bunch of people come together and sit down so a guy in ornate clothing can tell them what to do in order to avoid eternal damnation. For a long damn time, before mass distribution of holy books, the only way to know what religion was about was to go to “meetings”. Holy men kept all the knowledge to themselves.
- Is the leader a megalomaniacal, paranoid, power-hungry tyrant of a crazy person? Allow me to break from the list format and just quote this paragraph from number ten itself:
Yes, yes, it probably is an unfair stereotype to paint all cult leaders as less-than-benevolent, egomaniacal sociopaths who exploit individuals suffering from entirely-too-human doubts and depressions for their own personal, monetary and sexual gain. In reality, though, most cult leaders are less-than-benevolent, egomaniacal sociopaths who exploit individuals suffering from entirely-too-human doubts and depressions for their own personal, monetary and sexual gain.
Within the past year, we found out that the Pope, a guy who lives in a giant gold-encrusted city, was protecting child molesters. I’m just… gah. I’m the victim of an elaborate prank, right?