Strange and Curious Sects: Asatru

I once wrote an essay for Ebon Musings, "Parting the Parthenon", that was a semi-serious debunking of the ancient Greek gods. I wrote this as a reply to Christian apologists who accuse atheists of singling out Christianity for criticism, but also to show how many similarities there are between these ancient myths and the modern religions still believed by millions, and to implicitly ask what makes one more worthy of belief than another.So far, I haven't received any outraged letters from … [Read more...]

Exposing Scientology

I've written about the ludicrous "space opera" beliefs of Scientology (the Plan 9 from Outer Space of modern religions). In the future, I want to tell the story of my personal encounter with Scientology proselytizers, but today I have another subject: some recent news exposés that reveal the secrets and the machinations of the cult.First and foremost, the St. Petersburg Times deserves credit for its truly superb investigative reporting on the inner workings of Scientology. In their 2009 … [Read more...]

Strange and Curious Sects: Raelism

As humanity's understanding of the universe evolves, our religious beliefs change along with it, and the result is that every new religion bears the stamp of the time and place in which it first arose. Mormonism is an example - Joseph Smith used "seer stones" to translate the Book of Mormon, and claimed that the Native Americans were descendants of ancient Hebrew tribes, at a time in American history when both those ideas were in vogue. Today's post concerns a more recent, yet equally strange … [Read more...]

Another Cult Leader Convicted

I've got to give the government credit: they've been doing an excellent job cracking down on criminals who try to hide behind religion. Between Kent Hovind, Warren Jeffs, and now a new conviction, federal prosecutors have been diligently enforcing the law against creeps, con men, and petty tyrants who claim that the law of God gives them license to break the laws of society.This month's creep is Tony Alamo, former head of Tony Alamo Christian Ministries. On Friday, Alamo was convicted on ten … [Read more...]

The Case for a Creator: Meet Jonathan Wells

The Case for a Creator, Chapter 3Strobel's first interviewee is Jonathan Wells, author of the polemic Icons of Evolution. Icons attacks evolutionary theory by seeking to discredit what are, allegedly, its best-known supporting lines of evidence - its "icons" - such as the Miller-Urey experiment, Archaeopteryx, and the Cambrian Explosion.We'll get to that soon, but first I have to address what, to Strobel, must have been a bit of awkwardness. Virtually unique among modern advocates of ID, … [Read more...]

Strange and Curious Sects: Koreshanity

Cyrus Reed Teed, a.k.a. the Prophet Koresh. Public-domain image from Wikipedia.It seems that every religion has at least one signature bizarre belief: whether it be that the messiah is an American soldier who will return from across the ocean bringing marvelous cargo, or that human beings are possessed by the ghosts of murdered aliens, or that God wants us to transform him into crackers and consume him each week. But for sheer extravagant, defiant wackiness in the face of obvious disproof, … [Read more...]

Do You Really Believe That? (Xenu/Thetans)

Although past installments of "Do You Really Believe That?" have skewered absurd beliefs from other sects, I doubt any religion has doctrines as laughably ridiculous as Scientology's beliefs about "space opera". Today's post will explore the most infamous of those.According to Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, Xenu was an alien overlord who, 75 million years ago, was in charge of a "Galactic Confederacy" consisting of 76 planets, including Earth (which, according to Hubbard, was then … [Read more...]

Strange and Curious Sects: The Millerites

Today's edition of "Strange and Curious Sects" concerns a now-defunct religious group, but one which has offshoots that survive to the present day. Like the stories of John Frum and Sabbatai Zevi, it's also a lesson in the almost limitless capacity of the human mind to rationalize away disappointment.William Miller was born in 1782 in Massachusetts. A voracious reader, he converted to deism when he was young, but his belief in an intervening god would be restored in the War of 1812. Miller … [Read more...]

Strange and Curious Sects: Sabbatai Zevi

Past editions of Strange and Curious Sects have explored religious splinter groups that came into existence relatively recently. Today's edition will focus on an older cult that still has lessons to teach us: the bizarre story of the would-be Jewish messiah, Sabbatai Zevi.Sabbatai Zevi was born in 1626, supposedly on the anniversary of the Roman destruction of the Temple, to a wealthy Sephardic Jewish family in Smyrna, modern-day Turkey. In his youth, he studied the Talmud and especially the … [Read more...]

The Gospel of Elvis

In the book God?: A Debate Between a Christian and an Atheist, William Lane Craig (debating Walter Sinnott-Armstrong) makes the following argument for why God chooses to remain hidden:"Could God reveal himself more clearly?" Of course, He could: He could have inscribed the label "Made by God" on every atom or planted a neon cross in the heavens with the message "Jesus Saves." But why would He want to do such a thing?...[T]here is no reason at all to think that if God were to make His … [Read more...]


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