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."
THE MERLIN (IN ABSENTIA) OF BERKELEY SPRINGS