Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Counterfeits and cults

During employee orientation at a bank I once worked for, I was told how bank tellers would be trained to recognize counterfeit money. It wasn't what I expected. Instead of spending time with Treasury Agents and learning the intricacies of counterfeits, ink recipes, border variations, and serialization, they studied the real thing. They were told to rub it, smell it, crumple it, feel it, and generally to awash all the senses with genuine green backs. I think they did just about everything short of licking it. The obvious point here is you can't recognize fakes by studying fakes. You can best recognize fakes by knowing what the real thing is.

I was reminded of this a couple years ago while listening to a radio interview with a deprogrammer. Deprogramming is a curious occupation. These are the folks that rescue people from cults and help them recover from the brain washing. The interviewer asked, "How can you recognize a cult?" The response was interesting. "You can't recognize cults except by being familiar with major world religions." Again, the best way to spot a fake is to know the real deal.

By this yardstick Scientology looks more like a cult than a major world religion. The Roman Catholic Church doesn't threaten lawsuits against anyone that says something bad about it. Not since the Spanish, Peruvian, and Mexican Inquisitions (1478-1571) have Roman Catholic representatives held people against their will or tortured them to convert them to Catholicism or dissuade them from leaving the church. Neither do they hold copyrights on the bible or criminalize its reproduction.

Another thing major world religions don't do is terrorism. Jews don't strap explosives to themselves to blow up marketplaces. Buddhists don't kidnap and decapitate. Hindus don't issue death threats against authors of uncomplimentary fiction. Sikhs don't encourage the killing of non-Sikhs and the elimination of entire cultures, and Christians don't treat women as property or discourage their education.

Only the followers of Khomeini, Bin Laden, and other radical Islamicists do these things. Recently an editorial cartoon published in a Danish newspaper has inspired all kinds of protests, threats, and vandalism against anyone responsible for publishing the cartoon, associated with publishing it, and apparently anyone or webpage that's Danish and more recently German (since Die Zeit republished the cartoon).

One of my favorite quotes is, "You can tell the size of a person by the size of what bothers them." That applies equally well to religions as it does individuals. If a cartoon, book, or movie upsets you so much, how strong is your faith? Jesus encouraged his followers to turn the other cheek and that they would be blessed whenever they were persecuted for His sake. Those are big words for a big religion. If your faith can't endure a cartoon then you've already caricatured it yourself without the Danish.


  1. No doubt, knowing the 'real' is the best defense against a fake. Now if we can just get people to take the time to get to know what's really 'real'.

  2. Whatever it may mean, it certainly doesn't include drinking the Kool Aid to move to another planet, phenobarbital-laced vodka to join the mothership for a new plane of existence, or explosives to expedite our reward of virgins in paradise.

  3. This is a much more thorough look at the issue of radical islam (small i for the small minds of the radicals and their kind) than I've seen before. The real problem, of course, is what(if anything)can be done to change the course of radical islam, even if it doesn't seem that we'll radicals themselves...... something to give our most serious, clear and urgent thinking.

  4. OOOps!!! I forgot a word - change - in the last sentence of "glenn nelson said". "change" was ommitted between "we'll" and "radicals". Sorry.