Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Remembering Jonestown

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," coming to you from the border between Rationalville and Lunatictown. Where do you live?

Thirty years ago today, more than 900 followers of religious leader Jim Jones committed mass suicide at their compound, "Jonestown," in rural Guyana. The prior day, Jones had ordered the assassination of California Congressman Leo Ryan, who had flown in to investigate "Jonestown" at the urging of concerned relatives in his district.

Jones, a charismatic faith healer who attracted followers with a message of racial equality and socialism, had become a psychotic manipulator, a drug addict, and a despot with full powers over those foolish enough to join him in his jungle "utopia."

At Jones' orders, his followers drank cyanide-laced fruit drink, either killing their children first with the stuff or shooting the children and then drinking the stuff. Anyone who protested was shot. Jones killed himself the same way ... although his son was safely in Guyana's capital and so escaped the massacre.

I wrote here recently that religion soothes us, makes us feel that we're in concert with Higher Powers. That does not mean that we should accept religious practices or religious leaders that make unreasonable or irrational demands. And the vast majority of us are capable of seeing the distinction between rationality and lunacy. Sadly, some people -- for whatever reason -- opt for the lunacy.

And it's an invisible boundary line that runs between Rationalville and Lunacytown. Where does it begin? With the Mormon divorced mother of five who gave ten percent of her welfare check to the church? (I knew her.) The young guy who sells flowers 14 hours a day at the airport? The parent who trusts her young son to the guidance of a kindly priest? The couple who marry without ever having met before, because they were "paired" by the leader of their church?

The Jonestown Massacre is a radical example of what happens when groups of religious followers surrender all rationality. But this happens all the time in more subtle fashion. If church authorities are out to capture your mind or your body, leaving you unable to make your own choices, or afraid to do so, then brothers and sisters, you are in a cult.

We at "The Gods Are Bored" are all about finding a praise and worship framework that encourages freedom of the mind, body, and spirit. If you fear your deity or the leadership of your religion, get a new religion. There are so many religions! And so many sects within religions. Act now! The sanity you save could be your own.

Peace to the children of Jonestown. Peace to the people of Jonestown. Lest they will have died in vain, we say: "Freedom of the mind is what every good person should have."



mrsb said...

I watched a documentary on Jonestown. I was completely baffled by how people could be taken into something like that. Same with the whole Waco, Texas cult, and those comet followers (and so many others). How can people listen to these crazies and think "yeah, I'd kill my child for him!"


Celestite said...

msrb, I remember Jonestown. The brain washing took a very long time. Those people didn't just one day turn over their lives to that lunatic...they did it a small piece at the time and then one day it was too late. When Ryan was killed the whole world was about to descend on their secret home and the jig was up for Jones.
If I remember right there was evidence that quite a few people were shot trying to get out of there. They saw what they had become too late.
It's the slow, piece at a time brainwashing that is so dangerous, people who are otherwise rational go along one step at a time.

yellowdog granny said...

i remember when it happened too..was in calif..and remember thinking how can people be so stupid..i saw films of him and it was so obvious that he was on speed that i couldn't believe no one else noticed..
when david koresh made one of his trips to waco he happened to stop by the bar where my daughter worked...she was not impressed at all..and when he said he was a incarnation of Jesus, she laughed and said..oh no your not..I'm Jesus Christ, not get the fuck out of her..

sageweb said...

It is amazing that people get sucked in. I watched my parents get brain washed by the evangelicals...they were normal educated parents..then all of sudden they had the fear of god in them...it was strange to watch the change. I always wonder why my mind was never taken.

THE Michael said...

The cult of all cults is the Republican Party. People willingly bend over and take it in the rear all in the name of "conservatism" and all the hatred, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness it entails. I could not imagine watching a McCain political ad and thinking any sane person could believe it, yet millions do.

Jeff Lilly said...

Anne, why don't you sell bumper stickers? You've got bumper-worthy stuff in almost every post! "Act Now! The Sanity You Save Could Be Your Own!" I'd buy 20 and stick them on other people's cars.

Well, actually, I'd buy 20 and wish I had the courage to stick them on other people's cars. :-)