‘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-CÅ“ur, 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
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Religion News Blog posted this on Thursday November 21, 2013.
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