a nice fellow but he spent too much time playing football without a helmet."
Not that being on the wrong side of clever means all that much as it is apparent
that most people can be convinced to believe anything no matter how ridiculous.
You may be with me in thinking that anybody who believes in Scientology is lacking
any critical faculties but, when you consider the vast majority of religious
beliefs floating around, the others lack only the lurid hilarity of L Ron Hubbard’s
Among these advanced teachings of Scientology is the story of Xenu, introduced
as an alien ruler of the “Galactic Confederacy.” According to this
story, 75 million years ago Xenu brought billions of people to Earth in spacecraft
resembling Douglas DC-8 airliners, stacked them around volcanoes and detonated
hydrogen bombs in the volcanoes.
Well there’s an alternative reason for the extinction of the dinosaurs.
We may scoff at Tom Cruise’s credulity, whilst still thinking the man
is occasionally a fine actor, decidedly brave and always just a tad under-sized,
but when you think of what the most religions preach he is just on the wayward
fringe of credulity.
As similar example let me proffer Raelism which was founded by the French car
racer Claude Vorilhons who was abducted by aliens and taken to the distant planet
of Elohim where he meet great philosophers and religious thinkers such as Jesus,
Confucius, Buddha and Joseph Smith (the founder of Mormonism). He revealed that
began on earth 25,000 years ago from alien DNA and that the aliens would arrive
in Jerusalem in about eight years from now.
A religion or cult which I think deserves a lot more followers is the Church
of Euthanasia is a political organization started by the Reverend Chris Korda
in the Boston USA. One of its slogans is “Save the planet, kill yourself,”
might ensure that the organisation gets smaller over time.
One spoof religion that I remember from my university years was Kerista which
was written up in the July 1965 Fact: American satirical magazine, founded by
Ralph Ginzbgurg, to which I once briefly subscribed. “The Religion of
Kerista and its 69 Position” written by Robert Anton Wilson a prolific
science fiction author, sounded a lot more promising than Ten Commandments.
The story started as follows:
“Eight years ago, an ex-Air Force officer named John Presmont was sitting
in his room on East 31st Street in New York City when a voice spoke to him and
told him he would be the founder of the next great world religion. Presmont,
after leaving the Air Force with an honorable discharge, had become, by the
age of 38, what nice people call a “bohemian” or “beatnik.”
At the time the Voice spoke to him, he had been reading the Koran and smoking
marijuana rather heavily for 6 weeks. For several months before that, he had
been laboriously plowing through all the scriptures of the great religions-Hindu,
Confucian, Buddhist, Taoist, and so forth. Earlier still, he had chewed and
digested a great deal of modern psychology and sociology. Like most of us, he
was concerned with the growing horror of this age and, like a few of us, he
had felt this concern grow within him until it overmastered and all but obliterated
all his other interests. Nonetheless, he was abashed by the Voice.
“Why does it have to be me?” he cried.
“BECAUSE YOU‘RE SO GULLIBLE,“ the Voice answered solemnly.
Quite close to reality then.
My subscription to Fact: was brief as the magazine went bust after being sued
by the conservative Presidential Candidate Barry Goldwater after it described
him as paranoid, sexually insecure, suicidal, and "grossly psychotic”.
Goldwater was famous for his paraphrase of Cicero “I would remind you
that extremism in the defense (sic) of liberty is no vice. And let me remind
you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.”
Goldwater was painted as a dangerous figure by the aforementioned President
L B Johnson. His campaign countered Goldwater's slogan "In your heart,
you know he's right" with the lines "In your guts, you know he's nuts".
And now in a world where everybody can have their say, and say it repeatedly,
loudly, and without the need to resort to facts, we are in deep trouble as a
society. Fifty years ago there was no such thing as social media. The word got
to you by means of newspapers and television in a way that was shaped by the
prejudices of the owners and shareholders. Subtly shaped, but shaped nevertheless.
I was working as a proof-reader on a newspaper in the 1960’s in order
to pay for my paints and canvas at art school. In that position I had a chance
to compare what was tele-typed in from AAP and Reuters with what got into the
paper. Nothing was changed factually; it just didn’t all get in.
But it was, and is, preferable to the rolling dense fogs of rubbish, lies and
misinformation that we are subject to today.
In a world of Apps what we need is one on every phone, PC and tablet that checks
the facts and, if wrong, says ‘Bullshit!” to the author and melts
their electronic connection to the world. The globe would fall nearly silent.
Politicians would be rendered mute, radio and TV commentators and the billion
or so bloggers bloating the cosmos would be made impotent at a stroke.
So given that this isn’t going to happen, but in fact will get worse,
what can one do in a world of noisy nonsense? Turn everything off?
So let me leave you with the following irrelevant quote.
In March 1953 asked the Duc de Broglie (a physicist of some note, and elder
brother of the even more famous Louis de Broglie) whether, in his opinion, the
terrible fogs and storms that winter may be due to atomic experiments. The Duke
looked at him vaguely and replied, “Are you interested in the world? I’m
not. It’s so small.”