What Is True?
July 29, 2002
Edited: December 30, 2008
 

Introduction Part IV


Responsibility, Weakness and Cultism

Often we hear the type of thinking that undermines the role of personal responsibility. Recently on a CBC Radio interview, I heard a financial expert explain that the “incentives” in the “system” caused certain companies 1 to lie on their financial statements. I don’t understand his attitude, and I don't see the problem with "cowboy justice", as he calls it, if someone is actually found guilty of a crime.

If you are out of sync with the rules of nature, nature does the punishing anyway. Nature, in the form of investors following their best interests, automatically penalizes businesses that can’t be trusted. In the same way, if you live in a way that is out of sync with your own nature, tyrannized by fictitious dogma and arbitrary rules, you suffer for it. Being in a destructive cult puts you in conflict with reality, and thus with your own best interests and happiness.

The other day, I heard a lawyer explaining how fast-food companies should share the responsibility for his client’s obesity and resulting poor health 2, but this is ridiculous.

Being a cult member or eating fatty foods are not crimes. Whereas some make excuses for actual crimes, the opposite kind of distortion happens when others think every bad choice a person makes is completely under their control, failing to recognize that the human mind can be very weak. I think that’s why serious mental illness is so stigmatized. It is common enough 3, and probably affects someone they know. But I think many don't want to know about it, because it undermines their unrealistic view of the human mind. Even though dependencies and addictions are pervasive, the idea that the human mind can be manipulated and deluded can be more disturbing than death itself.

I have heard dismissive comments about cult members when there are incidents such as the Heaven's Gate suicides 4, as if they were anything but ordinary people. People in those situations need contact with their family and friends in the outside world. They need people to stay involved with them, speak up when they see something wrong, and tug them emotionally and intellectually away from the cult's influence. They need their family and friends not to assume they know what they’re doing.

The "Choice" of Switching Off Your Mind

A fast-food restaurant, if its practices are honest, is a good legitimate business, and it offers value for money. It offers food to people, and food is a good thing, right? It can also be responsive to its customers, like shareholders hold corporations accountable. Yes, a person needs to make responsible choices about what they eat and how much, and they need to shut out the advertising if it’s too much.

A cult, by comparison, is not the same thing at all. A cult is not accountable to its "members". Cults are defended by some as just a life-style choice, offering people supposedly harmless beliefs, “meaningful narratives” to help them understand the world. In exchange for your money and your time, you get to lose the ability to think for yourself. In exchange for living in dread in this life, you get to experience the infinite hope of a future that never arrives - until you are dead. That’s called “meaning” and "purpose". Instead of food for your money, you get pre-packaged lies.

How do you know it’s a lie? Yeah, exactly the right question. By the result, of course. By a reality test, when it’s all too late, and the years have passed you by. I was lucky enough to wake up, but if you make the wrong choice, you might never make another choice again. Who is going to tell me it doesn’t matter what I believe? Experience - nature - tells me it really matters what I believe. >

References

[1] cnn.com 07/21/2002 Reuters story: WorldCom Says to File Bankruptcy Sunday “WorldCom last month disclosed it improperly accounted for $3.85 billion in expenses ... WorldCom was charged with fraud by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and faces lawsuits from several state pension funds, which alleged WorldCom provided misleading information during a 2001 bond offering.”

[2] CBC Radio As It Happens 07/25/2002

[3] http://www.schizophreniawindsor.com/statistics.htm Schizophrenia Society of Ontario Windsor - Essex Chapter, Schizophrenia Statistics Made Simple

[4] Helpful article that discusses this whole subject. http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/users/fennell/highland/harper/millenial5.html
Home Page: http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/users/fennell/highland/harper/religlink.html
(Lexis-Nexis) Los Angeles Times article April 4, 1997 Terence Monmaney “Free will, or thought control?; Were the deaths of Heaven's Gate members the result of brainwashing? The debate reflects larger cultural questions about the role of choice and the issue of victimization.“

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