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Monday, March 9, 2009

"I Think Christianity is a Cult" by John W. Loftus (Debunking Christianity)


With posts like these, I can't see how John could have possibly made it to getting three Master's degrees. And, based on knowledge from past experiences (most of which can be dug up fairly easily), I'd have reason to believe John might be bullshitting everyone when he claims to possess such credentials.

John bases his argument by defining Christianity as a cult (and by cult, you can almost be sure that he isn't referring too "small religious movement" but instead the types of groups that are nortorious for forcing their followers to drink posoined punch) on a link from the "How Stuff Works" site (manufactured by the same exact webmaster responsible for "Why Won't God Heal Amputees" and the like), and pretending as though he can use it for "scholarly" purposes. What a joke.

I don't think it should take someone with even half a brain to see that this is the same exact thing as arguing from Wikipedia. In fact, "How Stuff Works" is contributed by countless authors on a variety of topics, and while probably more efficiently moderated than Wikipedia and not as open-based, the same basic principals apply: There are no gurantees that what said author is saying is verifiably credible, or even worthwhile. The fact that John would argue like this says tons about just how much of a "critical" thinker he really is. get deep into the guts of whatever John is trying to point out, let's look at the HSW website now, shall we?

Firstly, an example of a cult organization is revealed in the article's introduction:

"­While most small, non-mainstream religions are harmless, certain circumstances do make them an easy breeding ground for destructive practices. The People's Temple began as a charitable organization in the United States that ran a free medical clinic and drug rehabilitation program. But you probably know it as the doomsday cult whose Kool-Aid mass suicide/murders took more than 900 lives in Jonestown, Guyana, in 1978. How can something that began with so much hope go so very wrong? There's a lot of speculation about what happened to the members of The People's Temple, but for the most part, what went wrong is what goes wrong with most destructive cults: the leadership."

Most of what proceeds hereafter is elaborating more specifically to the types of dangerous leadership that is so common to cults. Yet from what can be gathered, these points do not make a case against general Christianity, as John would prefer it to be the case at hand. In fact, the examples provided and the article's wording only gives more assurance to this simple fact to bear in mind: None of these cults took their motives directly from doctrines. Theology had no influence in the "destructive" and sucidal behaviors of these cult-leaders and their followers. The heart of the argument is that a cult is driven to do dangerous things based on their authority figures, and not any scriptural text or justification of any kind. This differs from mainstream denominational Christianity, because the Christian movement relies on its scriptures in order to exist. Cults only require leaders who can psychologically manipulate those who are willing (which eventually becomes an unwilling participation) to follow. While this does occur, from all branches of Christianity in their church groups, this is not definitive of Christianity itself. It can even be argued that the practices of leading televangelists would contradict the basic principles of the Christian faith.

The author of the article provides a list of characteristics of what we can point out when trying to properly classify what a "cult" is:

  • Charismatic leadership
    Deception in recruiting
    Use of thought-reform methods
    Isolation (physical and/or psychological)
    Demand for absolute, unquestioning devotion and loyalty
    Sharp, unsurpassable distinction between "us" (good, saved) and "them" (bad, going to Hell)
    "Inside language" that only members fully understand
    Strict control over members' daily routines
This list was apparently not very well thought out. These mine as well apply to the United States Armed Forces, because these are most of the essential requirements needed to become a member of the military. Also, in many cases, it is not uncommon for a recruiter to throw in deceptive details about enlisting. But if we were to say this article hit the nail right on its head, why not call the military a cult? Why? Because it's wrong on so many different levels, and so it is also the same case when referring to Christianity.

One large difference between religions and cults might be that cults depend on group participation, while a religion depends mostly on theological doctrines. From there, you have what is called spirituality, which depends on neither except for the personal views that may be held by one person alone. It would be dangerous and stupid to group all three of these together and pretend as if they are one in the same. They aren't, and the criteria the author attempts to utilize becomes a failure, because you could apply many of those things to governmental sectors and police forces, yet I'm almost positive the author would not try to argue that the government, especially the military, works on cult-like principals. Yet by accepting her argument as absolute, we would simply have no choice.

But then again, it would also be fallacious to assume that the author's opinions reflect those of her readers, and especially the interpretations of her articles through her readers. Here's a specific outline in mind:

"For the remainder of this article, when we refer to techniques employed by "cults," we're talking about destructive cults, not the small religious groups that keep to themselves and don't hurt anybody."

Mmmmm....sounds like John's argument just went into the crapper and got flushed out. Maybe John's motives caused him to glance over this at his convenience, I wouldn't doubt it being the case. In order for John to define Christianity as whole, including its denominations, as a religious cult (according to the author's defining terms), then Christianity would have to be harmful in every aspect. But like every religion and philosophy, it varies significantly and from group to group. A primary demonstrative example is the spectrum one gets on Creationism: In Christianity, you have three different groups, Creationist, Intelligent Design proponent (IDer or IDiot, as atheist sites are found of saying), and Theistic Evolutionist. All three believe the basic doctrines of Christianity, but believe so in different contexts. I don't think we would need to go any further or cite any more of this article to bring out the point trying to be made here. Simply put, Loftus has never put up a solid argument, and it doesn't look like he ever will.


  1. I see Holding is a blog member here and on another site. Is he fixiated on me or something? Hi JP!

    You do realize the patent inconsistency with this very site, don't you? Surely this won't escape the attention of any reasonable person. For if my arguments are lame and ridiculous then you wouldn't even bother with me.

    This blog will eventually fizzle out like the others. Fleas are what they are and they serve as a compliment to my work.

    But if you don't wish to be banned over at DC then come up to the civilized world. We have the HTML text to do so and I will.

  2. Golly, John....ever hear of entertainment value?

    Ya got plenty. It's kind of like watching someone run into a wall over and over. You're almost as good as the Three Stooges, but not as intelligent.

  3. "But if you don't wish to be banned over at DC then come up to the civilized world. We have the HTML text to do so and I will."

    Hey John: Have you ever heard of FREEDOM OF SPEECH?

    You're on my turf when you post here. I don't have to follow any of your blog's rules while you post comments here. If you want to ban me, you have every right to do so, but don't expect the free reign to come onto my blogs and try to defend your prideful insecurities. My blogs are around to stay for as long as I say they are, and no matter what you try to do to stop me from commentary, I have plans of keeping them up on the net permanently.

    Let's see if you can first define what it means in your own words to be an "asshole" without it feeling neccessary grounds to terminate my existence on Debunking Christianity. If you can at least do that, I'll be a little more civil in my discussion (by the way John, would you like to point out specific areas where I have called you any names on this site and its affliates?).

  4. Rover,

    It is sad that both sides are so petty. Surely the Christian side should have some motivation to be less malicious. Yes Loftus is an egomaniac, but should Christians act as equally as immature? What does the Bible teach you? Be kind to your enemies. Love them. Loftus has some good arguments. Deal with them, don't play games. Loftus - try to act like a scholar not a school yard bully. Play nice boys.

  5. Yes I can understand how people are taking this from Holding's side of the table. Of course, with the way that John tries to bolster himself as, the article's title isn't really all that innappropriate.

    Heck, I'd like to see him answer my question on what he thinks an "asshole" is.

  6. Loftus isn't MY enemy, Fido...he's an enemy of the common good. Try some professional exegesis for a change.

  7. Just shows one side is as bad as the other hwen it comes to pointless bickering.

    And htis form soemone who, due to the textual nature of the net is often seen as Malicious when I make Sarcastic jokes.

    I do think you lot shoudl all simmer down though.

  8. Rover,

    I am a fellow Christian. I am an Elder in the church. Please take some advice an love your enemies. Exegesis has no value if don't learn from it. It can be nothing more then an excercise in futility if you parse the words yet learn nothing of their meaning.

  9. Fido,

    Elders are frequently as ignorant as atheists when it comes to Biblical exegesis. People like you are the reason why Christianity in the West is in decline. You have no idea what Biblical agape means and have decontextualized it into Western feelgood sentimentalism. IT ISN'T. Nor does "love you enemies" have a thing to do with combating ideological opponents of the faith as a whole. You're mistaking personal enemies for corporate opponents of righteousness and truth.

    I know the meaning better than you ever will -- because you don't care to know the truth. Keep your self-righteousness to yourself. :)

  10. Mr. Holding, I'm afraid that such is uncalled for.

    I and others can safely say that we appriciate your efforts to present clear refutatiosn of comon arguments, and have out a great deal of time and thuht into it, but I also know that many, myself included and apparekty other posters here of note, have taken issue with your rather sharp tounge and unpelsant demeanour which you sometimes allow to interfere withthe roesentation.

    I know it is liekly unintentional. Many peopel see me as an arrogant jerk, or vicious, simply becuase I stand opposed to what they beleive and have a forceful personality, and osmetims simply my dry and sarcastic wit is mistaken for maliciusness, but I do endeavour ot show a sort of love as best of my ablity and compassion.

    Simply attackign others will not brign them to CHrist, or even tot he table ot hear you, it only outs them onthe defensive and drives them further into hir own cause whilst generatign emnity betweenthem and us.

    So I woudl only ask that you perhaps reconsider ysoem o your attitudes.

  11. Mr. Holding,

    I may not be as ignorant as you think, but you may never know because you attack before you think. Put on the mind of Christ my brother. For my exegesis of "love your enemies" all I need do is look to the life of Christ and see that even when one opposes a fool he need not be a fool himself.

  12. Fido barks:

    "I may not be as ignorant as you think, but you may never know because you attack before you think."

    I do know, because you scatter evidence like Hansel and Gretel dropping loaves of bread. If your mouth and self-righteousness aren't the only big things about you, then see me on TheologyWeb and show us your exegetical brilliance.

    Your "life of Christ" is apparently one in which you edited out various portions of the Gospels that didn't suit you.

    As for you, Zarove -- I've been here before too many times, and you have not. Don't get on your high horse telling me or anyone else to "reconsider" what we have spent decades considering. It's called for, all right -- but it's too late for the Western church now. And if you think otherwise, you know where to go from here.

  13. Mr. Holding, the problem that I have, and I htink Rover has, is mainly in the spirit you present yourself. This is not me on a high horse, but I am simply sayign that perhaps less aggitation and insult arre required.

    As to the Western CHurch, God, not man, sustains. Whereas I agre with you that there is too litlte focus on acutal scholarhsip, I dont think we will insoire a drive toward it by sturring feelings of Antipathy.

    Thats all Im saying.

  14. Wrong. Lack of aggressive defense, and irresponsible pseudo-Calvinist handoffs ("God sustains") are what got us INTO this mess in the first place.

    You just go enjoy your Joel Osteen and Joyce Meyer meetings and leave the real work to those if us who know how to do it.


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