Friday, March 21, 2008

On deception in religion

PZ Myers wins the internet today for being ejected from a screening of the creationist propaganda film Expelled while Richard Dawkins was let in.

Speaking of propaganda, let me talk about deception.

Several months ago, there was a website called, which seemed to be an innocuous secular website until you visited it and found out there was GOD GOD GOD GOD plastered all over it.

A lot of conservative Christian groups employ such tactics - there is a group at Wisconsin called Primetime which does not bill itself as Christian, but is very obviously, if you read more about it, a worship service. Chi Alpha, in addition (and I actually visited one of their stupid things before learning they were Christian and politely getting the fuck out of the room), does not bill itself as Christian until you notice the fine print and see that they are affiliated with Campus Crusade.

Notably, our favorite cult-we-love-to-hate, Scientology, also does this by way of their 'free stress tests', which are nothing more than their opportunity to push Dianetics on you and use one of their 'e-meters', which are nothing more than multimeters. You can fuck with these by coating your hands in silicone!

Oddly enough, I have never seen any of this from another religious group.

Why, then, are groups such as these employing deceptive tactics?

They both know well that they're incredibly despised, perhaps, but hoodwinking someone into getting affiliated is not the way to go and not the way to get someone who's going to actually come to your cause. The best organizations I know - here I'm talking about secular organizations - don't employ misinformation.

Incidentally, this is a characteristic of cults - refer to these characteristics from

Various groups within the ACM have differing concepts about what defines a cult. They often list a group of factors that a cult exhibits. In their list of "Characteristics of a Destructive Cult," reFOCUS lists five. 3 They do not say how many of the 5 must be present in order for a faith group to be called a cult:

  1. An authoritarian power structure, with control concentrated at the top.
  2. Charismatic or messianic leader(s) (They define Messianic as meaning that the leaders identify themselves as God or state that they are the only persons capable of interpreting the Bible properly.)
  3. The use of deceitful methods in recruitment of new members and/or raising of money.
  4. Isolation of their membership from society; filtering of information.
  5. The use of mind control methods on the membership.

Certainly, a number of these groups - I can think of a few Christian ones offhand - fit 1, 2, and 3 - not so much 4 and 5, those are reserved for the most damaging groups. Certainly, a number of fundamentalist groups do not fit these criteria. Certainly, a number of fundamentalist groups do, some of which are in the mainstream.

It defies logic to recruit members via knowingly - the key word is knowingly - feeding them falsehoods and hiding information; that implies something is VERY wrong with the organization - corruption, power structure, damaging beliefs, et cetera. I wonder if the fundies have actually thought about these things.

This scares me not only as an atheist but as a human being who cares for the well-being of her classmates.

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