What Do the Moonies Tell You About Other Religions?

By now, most of you are undoubtedly aware of the death of Sun Myung Moon, founder and namesake of the “Moonies” religion, more properly named the Unification Church.

I, like possibly many of you, had remained largely ignorant of the actual  beliefs and practices of the Moonies. I mostly knew of them thanks to their famous mass weddings. The Moonies believe that the only way to get to Heaven is through the creation of “sinless marriage,” which can only happen if such a union is blessed by the “True Parents,” Sun Myung Moon and his wife Hak Ja Han Moon. I don’t know how they plan on blessing these marriages now that the Head Blesser is dead, but I’m sure they’ll find some workaround. Religions always seem to handle those things pretty well.

Moonie mass wedding (via Jezebel)

In reading about the Moonies and the history of this very, very young religion (founded in 1954), I wasn’t actually struck by the general weirdness of its history… rather, I was struck by how fantastically ordinary and familiar it sounded to anyone who has studied other major religions.

The Moonies base their beliefs in Christianity. However, according to Moon, Jesus never completed his mission of redeeming mankind because of his crucifixion. To remedy this, God sent Moon to be the messiah — to lead people into enlightenment and heaven. This very closely parallels the story of Muhammad, who also claimed to be the true messiah of God while recognizing Jesus as a prophet.

Moonies have also been accused of including unsuspecting non-members in their practices:

Marriage, not membership, was the passport to the Kingdom of Heaven. But marriage did not necessarily involve participating in the mass Blessing ceremony: the key requirement was to imbibe the Holy Wine used at such events. There were various ways in which non-members could be persuaded inadvertently to consume it. Some members distributed candy bars containing minute quantities of the wine, and one member even put a small amount into a local reservoir, thus securing the Blessing of quite a large community.

Including unknowing strangers in your membership through deceptive and disrespectful means? I wonder if the Mormons can sue for copyright infringement

It appears that the death of Sun Myung Moon will offer us yet another reminder that religions are the same show with different costumes: a schism.

Moon’s family problems have inevitably created a problem about succession. In 2008 Moon decided to appoint his youngest son, Hyung Jin (also known by his western name, Sean), and formally handed over the FFWPU presidency to him. Sean, 33, is suave and confident, and speaks fluent English (his first language), unlike his father, who never learnt English, but when required either communicated through a translator or read speeches that others had written for him.

Sean obtained an MBA degree from Harvard, and during his student days became a Zen practitioner, shaving his hair and wearing Zen priest’s robes. His supporters welcome his wider spiritual background, and think he may bring some innovative ideas.

Meanwhile, Sean is at odds with his eldest surviving brother, Hyun Jin (aka Preston), who has his own following, and the two are locked in a legal dispute over property ownership. The dispute is so acrimonious that Hyun Jin’s siblings asked him to leave when he came to visit his dying father.

One wonders what kind of tips on such matters Abu Bakr (Muhammad’s succesor according to Sunnis) and Ali (Muhammad’s sucessor according to Shia Muslims) could have provided when they were alive.

I once again find myself wondering how religious people view these kinds of news items. Eventually, it must trickle in that most religions have histories that are not only embarrasingly non-holy, but also remarkably similar to one another.

How can you see such histories and avoid asking the question: “What makes my religion special?”

About Claudia

I'm a lifelong atheist and a molecular biologist with a passion for science and a passionate opposition to its enemies.

  • Aaron Scoggin

    To be honest, I had no idea that such a group of people even existed. This has amused me.


  • Baby_Raptor

    What makes their religion special? It’s the right one, obviously. Their god said so!

  • Conrad9017

    Just shows to go ya….they are all Nuckin Futs.

  • Fargofan

    The Moonies show that it doesn’t take long to start a religion. It also doesn’t require anything supernatural.

    I heard a believer argue that Christianity couldn’t have survived unless it was true: it took root so fast, there was no time for embellishment. But here’s a guy who started his religion in the 1950s, and now it has thousands of members. 

  • John of Indiana

    That was new. I had always considered the Unification Church to be just another one of the 42,000-odd flavours of Xianity.

  • Lee Miller

    What continually amazes me is how otherwise apparently normal, functioning adults buy into these crazy belief systems . . . what causes someone to make the leap from “that’s a bunch of crazy ideas” to “this is a belief system given by God which I must follow”?  Since there’s no evidence for any of them, what pushes people to believe?

  • http://boldquestions.wordpress.com/ Ubi Dubium

    It will be interesting to see if and how long the unification church survives now.  I recently read “In a cult, there is one person at the top who knows the whole thing is a scam.  In a religion, that person is dead.”  We’ll see if the Moonies can go from being a cult to being a religion, or whether the whole thing just collapses under its own crazy.

  • LesterBallard

    Isn’t one of the big time IDiots a Moonie? Was it Wells?

  • cathouseumbrella

    Heh. I really hope someone makes that argument to me sometime, since by that logic Mormonism is definitely true.

  • Santiago

    Great post. As I have mentioned before, for me History, not science, was what led me to my views on religion. Don’t forget Rigddon and Young struggles for power after Smith’s death. This kind of internal political/dynastic intrigues are quite fascinating and revealing to me.

  • Sindigo

    Considering Xtianity is an off shoot of Judaism, that is a stupid argument. Also, how many Pastafarians are there now?

  • Bryan Gillis

    I once again find myself wondering how religious people view these kinds of news items. Eventually, it must trickle in that most religions have histories that are not only embarrasingly non-holy, but also remarkably similar to one another.

    For some people, yes, but they’re the minority. The rest engage in special pleading (when they even know about other religions – ignorance is a huge issue here). They simply have to find some rationalization – any reason, no matter how flimsy – why their religion is different, and then they stop thinking about it. Catholics might say, “Well sure, all religions seem to splinter… but everyone splintered away from us. We’re the core, true religion.” The average believer wouldn’t even know about all the various schisms in Christianity, or the pope/anti-pope succession crises. Again, most religions seem to survive by keeping their believers as ignorant as possible.

  • http://www.facebook.com/d3st88 Morva Ádám

    Great post.

  • Sharon Hypatia

     Yep, Johnathon Wells of the Discovery Institute was sent to university by the UC to get a biology degree SOLELY to refute evolution. He calls Rev Moon his “father”, in a spiritual sense.

  • Sceptic

    Moonies are loonies. Charismatic leaders will always have their following. Whether they use religion, atheism, Fabianism, occultism or any other focal issues, there will always people who will follow them. Apparently there is a need for people to feel they belong to groups. Most people think they are rational, but in the hands of dynamic leaders who are experts in manupilating their emotions, many become putty. That is why groups that are self- righteous and angry are always worrying as they can do a lot of damage.

  • C Peterson

    I once again find myself wondering how religious people view these kinds of news items. Eventually, it must
    trickle in that most religions have histories that are not only
    embarrasingly non-holy, but also remarkably similar to one another.

    Yes, but you know what they say about time wounding all heels…

    If the Moonies are around in 1000 years, all this embarrassing and mundane family bickering will no doubt become elevated to Shakespearean levels of drama- the good son guided by God, the bad by Satan. This will have been codified into written scripture, no doubt seen as being inspired (if not written) by God himself. As the real roots of the religion are lost in time, it will be seen as respectable, its views immune from criticism. Like all other old religions.

  • http://www.holytape.etsy.com Holytape

    The scariest part of the Moonie operations is how influential they were in America.  They owned the Washington Times, and they contributed millions of dollars in campaign financing. 

    I know its old but check out this for a true bizarre account of how powerful they were, and possibly still are

  • 0xabad1dea

    It would seem that any cult leader is strongly advised to have only one child. 

  • 0xabad1dea

    The question of where is the line between a Christian denomination and a Christian offshoot is extremely debated. For me, I put the Mormons, the Witnesses, the Moonies, etc firmly on the offshoot side. It’s the introduction of new canon and prophecies that does it for me.

  • Sharon Hypatia

     If you want to be more amused, and a little bit horrified, do some research on them. They aren’t a tiny little cult, like the WBC.
    The UC is creationist and conservative and very rich (in the $billions), so they pour money into  creationist and conservative causes. They own the conservative Washington Times newspaper.  Johnathon Wells, of the DI, was sent to university by the UC to get a biology degree to refute evolution.
    I don’t know how much money they pour into these causes (too  lazy to look it up), but I bet it’s not peanuts.
    The funny-horrifying event was a ceremony in Washington on March 23, 2004 where Rev Moon and his wife were crowned with the “Crowns of Peace” in front of both the Dem & Repub congressmen in attendance. (Many claimed afterwards that they were duped and didn’t know this was going to happen. IMHO, crowning anyone on American soil except possibly Miss Potato
    Blossom, is a total affront to the foundations of American democracy.)  http://www.salon.com/2004/06/21/moon_7/
    How many politicians are in the lap of the UC? People like GW Bush and Al Sharpton have spoken at UC sponsored events – whether for political or ecumenical reasons is the question. Certainly any savvy politician wouldn’t want to get on the bad side of a conservative daily

  • advancedatheist

    Creationists like to ask questions along the lines of, “If X’s evolved from Y’s, why do Y’s still exist?” Well, the Unification Church evolved from older forms of christianity. Why do these other kinds of christianity still exist?

  • advancedatheist

    In Moon’s case, he had a foreign religion imported into Korean culture to work with. Compare how Westerners take up yoga, Buddhist meditation, feng shui, qigong, acupuncture, Eastern martial arts and so forth. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/brandie.winchester Brandie Lynn Winchester

    “What makes my religion special?” Love this line it
    reminds me of when I was in high school. I was not quite an atheist at the time
    and was not in a very religious home, however I hadn’t started looking in to
    other options for my beliefs. Any way a local pastor began loitering in the
    halls of our high school during lunch, we had an open campus. I found myself
    having conversations with this man, then one day he made a comment that turned
    our conversation in to a debate.

    He said, “As a true Christian you would know that Christianity
    is the only way to heaven”

    I rebutted with “What makes your religion so special?
    So all the others on this planet are wrong and will go to hell for believing in
    the wrong religion? Why would you want to believe in a god that is so jealous he
    would damn the remainder of the civilization to hell? And what about those
    people who were never in their lifetime given the opportunity to save themselves
    by converting? If God is all knowing he would know from the birth of this
    person that they will never be given the chance to covert to Christianity, so
    does that mean they are damned to hell from the beginning?”

    I never got my answer all I received was this “Come to
    my church and listen to a few sermons and god will show you the answers to your

    I didn’t find my answers there either.

  • AdzyBoy

    From what I’ve heard,  Sun Myung Moon was a hell of a nice guy, and his face resembled a large pastry. 


  • Edmond

    I think I’m FAR less concerned that they would try, Mormon-style, to convert me without my knowledge or approval, than I am about them slipping something into a PUBLIC WATER SUPPLY.

  • http://www.facebook.com/lonborghini.funghini Lonborghini Funghini

    Making Paulianism, aka christinity, an offshoot of judaism and judaism an offshoot of Egyptian monotheims that preceeded it. Ever since a human first prayed to a rock, all others are offshoots of the original delusion.

  • Earl G.

    I may have to steal that analogy sometime (or a version of it)!

  • Pseudonym

    What makes their religion special?

    This is my religion. There are many like it, but this one is mine.

  • Kimpatsu

    Let’s not forget, though, that the Moonies deny evolution, which seats them in the batshit crazy section, and that they received money from the CIA during the Reagan administration for being anti-communist.