Religious Insanity Archive

You'll find articles about this subject in each of the items listed, even if the term does not necessarily occur within the headlines or descriptive text.

‘Psychic’ Sylvia Brown dies; Spiritual abuse; Scientology …

bullet Self-proclaimed ‘Psychic’ Sylvia Brown has died at the age of 77.

According to the CNN report, Brown claimed she discovered her alleged abilities when she was 3 years old. In 1974 she founded The Nirvana Foundation for Psychic Research.

She also set up the Society of Novus Spiritus to train ‘ministers,’ and created The Sylvia Browne Hypnosis Training Center.

Like other psychics, Brown has been debunked many times.

On a 2004 episode of “The Montel Williams Show” she told the mother of a missing girl that her daughter was dead, “in heaven, on the other side.” That girl, Amanda Berry, was rescued last May from the home of Ariel Castro, where she and two other girl had been held captive for the better part of a decade. T

Noted skeptic James Randi has long tried to get Brown to fulfill a promise that she would have him test her alleged ability to talk to the dead. She never did.

Can Psychics help you?

bullet Bishop Georges Pontier, president of the French bishops’ conference has issued a public statement in response to calls for recognition of the “human damage” caused by ecclesiastical movements that were guilty of abusive practices.

A group of 40 people who describe themselves as “victims of sectarian aberrations in different ecclesial movements and religious congregations” addressed the bishops at a recent meeting, saying that the effects of spiritual abuse can range from depression to suicide or to the destruction of personalities.

The critics named 14 spiritual communities for what they consider to be cult-like practices. Only five of these groups — including Legion of Christ, the Beatitudes community, Points-Cœur, and the Community of St. John — have been subject to church discipline.

Pontier warned against generalizations, and against dismissing groups based on the behavior of individuals, but he emphasized the need for spiritual freedom, noting that “The Gospel of Christ, which we seek to serve, is a school of spiritual freedom.”
Research resources on spiritual abuse

bullet The Scientology cult finally removed a giant, illegal sign from a temporary building it set up in Clearwater, Florida.

A spokesperson for the fantasy religion says her church considers the sign to be art that has a religious meaning for Scientologists. The sign includes the terms, “Golden Age of Tech” — which refers to a teaching method developed by Scientology cult founder, fantasist L. Ron Hubbard, and the letters KSW — an acronym for “Keeping Scientology Working.”1

The latter phrase refers to a series of policy letters written by Hubbard regarding the proper application and preservation of his study method, and the eradication of “non-standard tech”, also known as “squirreling” — the unauthorized use of the method by Scientology practitioners who have either been kicked out of the Church of Scientology, of have voluntarily disassociated themselves from it.

Clearwater’s Code Enforcement Board doesn’t buy that explanation, and ruled — a day after the sign was removed — 6-1 that the church had violated the city’s sign code.

An attorney representing the cult says the city infringes on religious freedom, and confirmed Scientology may plan to attach other such wraps for celebrations later this year. But a city attorney says, “We are simply asking that they follow the rules just as any other good corporate citizen, religious citizen or even just a regular plain Jane or Joe Citizen would do.”

Indeed, religious freedom is no excuse to break the law.

Speaking of which, a 1977 FBI raid uncovered that the cult at the time plotted to take over the city of Clearwater.

bullet Where were you when you heard the news about the Peoples Temple mass murder/suicide?

It happened 35 years ago today.

Often informally referred to as Jonestown — after cult leader Jim Jones — the Peoples Temple Agricultural Project became a darling of academic defenders of alternative religions, including J. Gordon Melton, who is so notorious for his defense of cults that he has been referred to as the ‘father of cult apologists.’

Melton said “This wasn’t a cult. This was a respectable, mainline Christian group.” He claimed that the mass suicide2 had been transformed into a “definitive cult horror story” by the media and anti-cult groups.

But if you want to know what really happened it’s better to learn from someone who was closely involved. Deborah Layton, one of the cult’s few survivors shared her story in Seductive Poison: A Jonestown Survivor’s Story of Life and Death in the People Temple

Incidentally, amidst a plethora of articles on the Peoples Temple that appeared this month, this one is among the most interesting: Why Did So Many Black Women Die? Jonestown at 35

bullet Nowadays its difficult to find newspapers and other news outlets that still have reporters dedicated to the religion beat.

Perhaps they’ve all taken refuge at Religion Dispatches, where you find tons of interesting religion articles, such as Are Messianic Jews Unfairly Shunned by Jews?3

Or at Religion News Service, with articles like Are Christian conferences sexist?4

bullet On Religion News Blog’s Twitter feed we occasionally use the hashtag #religiousinsanity to signify insane behavior rooted in someone’s interpretation of religion.

Case in point: A man who offered ‘free hugs’ in Saudi Arabia’s capital Riyadh has been arrested by the state’s religious police.

Yes, free hugs.

Yes, ‘religious police.’

The Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice is charged with enforcing ShariaIslamic law.

We’ve heard enough.

bullet A Costco store near Los Angeles has apologized for labeling Bibles with price stickers that declare the books to be ‘fiction’.

The Bibles were actually mislabeled by a distributor, but Costco says “we take responsibility and should have caught the mistake.”

The store has relabeled the books, so if you managed to get a mislabeled Bible — and left the price sticker attached — you’ve got yourself a collector’s item.

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  1. Tom Cruise mentioned this acronym in his infamous video on Scientology
  2. Investigators learned that it was actually a combination of mass murder and suicide
  3. See: Messianic Jews
  4. See: Women in Christian Ministry

Bad Holy Water * Kabbalah Centre Guru dead * Pope Benedict Sentenced — Holy water — which is plain water that has been blessed by a religious leader — is used in various religions for anything from baptism and spiritual cleansing to warding off evil.

But it may also be very bad for you.

Researchers at the Institute of Hygiene and Applied Immunology at the Medical University of Vienna tested the holy water from various sources in Austria.

They found that 86 percent of the water from 21 holy springs did not meet the requirements of Austria’s national drinking water regulations.

In addition, all 18 holy water fonts tested in churches and hospital chapels throughout Vienna contained water infected with common bacteria found in fecal matter.

Not surprisingly, the busier the church, the worst the condition of the water — with samples containing up to 62 million bacteria per milliliter of water.

In their study, published in the Journal of Water and Health, the researchers point out that drinking — or even touching — contaminated water can result in cramping, diarrhea, and fever.

In 2009 Italian inventor Luciano Marabese (misspelled in this video as Marabrese), a Catholic, invented a hygienic holy water dispenser that works with an infrared sensor:

Philip Berg, founder of the controversial Kabbalah Centre, has died at the age of 84 (86, according to the centre).

Born as Feivel Gruberger, he was a former Brooklyn insurance salesman. He changed his name in 1969, and presented himself as the messianic head of the Kabbalah movement — an ancient form of Jewish mysticism.

His Kabbalah Centre’ unortodox interpretation of Kabbalah, gained prominence when Madonna credited it with “creative guidance” on her 1998 album, Ray Of Light.

The Daily Mail in 2004 said that Berg ditched his family in order to milk millions from gullible disciples.

Screenshot, Kabbalah Centre website

Screenshot, Kabbalah Centre website

At the time the paper wrote that there are claims the Kabbalah Centre — which has assets believed to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars — “is a dangerous cult whose converts are brainwashed into handing over their earnings to fund the opulent existence of Berg and his family.” [See: How Madonna’s sect snared my daughter]

Years later, in 2011, the IRS started an investigation into the centre’s financial dealings.

The status of that investigation is not known.

Pastor on trial for securities fraud

Jurors have been selected for the trial of Harris Himes, a Montana pastor, charged with securities fraud.

Himes, who has pleaded not guilty, was charged with felony theft, fraud and conspiracy to commit fraud two years ago after allegations that he and another pastor bilked a church member out of $150,000 in 2008.

Nuts sentence pope; try to seize Catholic Church

Parishioners at a church service in England were attacked last Sunday by a bunch of nuts claiming to be “international law enforcers”.

They are members of what they call the International Tribunal into Crimes of Church and State, which is headed by defrocked United Church of Canada minister Kevin Annett.

The group says it established a court last year in which they tried Pope Benedict XVI in absentia.

He was found guilty of crimes against humanity, and the court sentenced him to 25 years in prison, along with seizure of his assets — apparently including the Catholic church in Foleshill, Conventry.

Oh, the same group of lunatics also found the British Queen and the Canadian prime minister guilty of similar crimes, and the court has ordered that they be arrested.

The group actually filmed its shenanigans in Conventry, and posted the video to YouTube:

Al Qaeda leader issues guidelines for holy war

Ayman al-Zawahri, leader of the terrorist group Al Qaeda, has issued guidelines for jihad — ‘holy war’.

The documents provides insight into al Qaeda’s current strategy, as well as the nature of its global ambitions.

The hate group’s main aim remains the weakening of the United States and Israel, but the documents also emphasizes the need for “dawa” — missionary work on behalf of al Queda’s ideas.

Did you know that Islam knows a ‘greater’ and a ‘lesser’ jihad?