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  • Including one (probably short-lived) link that appears to be a now-deleted blog entry, and then this [].

    (From [])

    J. David works really hard, has a passion for writing good software, and knows many of the world's best Perl programmers
    • Whoa. I actually knew about the investigators, but I didn't say anything because I wasn't aware it was public knowledge and I was afraid a friend of mine would get in trouble for sharing that. The story I heard is that basically they were having PIs follow him and his parents and the constant harrassment scared the heck out of them. From that blog entry, though, it sounds like a bit more may have happened. Of course, this is all conjecture and rumor, so let that disclaimer be out there.

      And not just co

      • That's organized religion

        Not necessarily. Those are hallmarks of a "cult" but not necessarily a religion.

        • How do you define 'cult' and 'religion'? Someone (Heinlein, I think?) differentiated a cult as a religion where the majority of members have joined it and a religion as being something where the majority of people are born into it. By this criteria, perhaps Scientology only has to wait?

          • Several years back there was some kind of study about religion and those personality tests you see all the time (no, not the Scientology personality test :) ). For the record, I think much of those "personality tests" may be hooey, so take this with a grain of salt: :)

            Anyway, they tested folks twice, asking them to describe themselves as they were now the first time, then asking them to describe themselves as they WANTED to be, in the future.

            Now in any given group of people you usually have a wide distribution of the various personality types. And, of course, many people are unhappy with the way they live and want to change, so you had people in every category of the test, and then you had people in every category who wanted to move to other categories: introverted people who wanted to become extroverted, for example (I did this in high school). Or vice versa, or whatever.

            Now, they found that in most mainstream religions (or maybe it was just Christian denominations, I'm not sure), this holds: in the Baptist church you've got people of all types, and a significant number of folks who want to become all the other types. Same for Methodist, Catholic, etc.

            But in the "cults" they found something different: in the cults you were likely to find a broad distribution of personality types, but everybody wanted to change into the exact same personality category, which was usually the same as the personality of the cult founder.

            Anyway, as I said, I'm not sure how much credibility I place in those tests, but this could actually be a pointer to some psychological mechanism that might actually be able to distinguish between a "religion" and a "cult." Myself, I'm a member of a very minority Christianity called the Church of Christ, or Churches of Christ, and we get branded "cult" a lot (usually by Baptists who think there's something repugnantly anti-Christ in our theology, even though the article of faith they detest so much is shared with the Catholic Church, of all people :) ), so I dismissed all the labels long ago. (One of my most interesting discussions was with a Jehovah's Witness who, upon hearing I was a member of the Church of Christ said, "I thought you guys were a cult." Of course, many say the same thing about the JW's. Myself, I don't care for the labels either way. I'm more interested in truth.)

            The context I heard about this was actually about the Church of Christ. We have an offshoot that is usually definitely described as a cult, called the "Boston Church of Christ" or "International Church of Christ" (in fact sometimes we get called "cult" by people who know only of the ICoC and assume we are the same thing, which is annoying). Some church growth expert within the mainstream churches looked into the numerical successes the ICoC was having and thought at first their techniques might be a great idea, until he started running these personality profiles on people and discovered the ICoC showed the cultlike pattern instead of the mainstream religion pattern. Google can probably hunt down all of the details, and correct all the things I'm sure I've misremembered.

            J. David works really hard, has a passion for writing good software, and knows many of the world's best Perl programmers
            • That jibes with the criterion I heard and use: that in general, cults revolve around the person and personality of the founder himself.

              Scientologists worship Hubbard.

              Admittedly, this isn’t very well defined; trying to apply it to the major religions gets mired in a swamp of murky questions. F.ex., there’s little biblical evidence for Trinity, upon which depends whether Christianity is a cult by the letter of this criterion or not. Islam and (to some extent) Buddhism suffer similar confusions

              • The "word" Trinity is never used in the Bible. There is ample evidence "of" a trinity in the Bible.

                • I was not picking on words. There is ample evidence of Father and Son being separate entities.

                  • There is ample evidence of the Holy Spirit being one as well. Although I would not use separate, I would say distinct.

                    • You should read Richard Dawkins' "The God Delusion". He has a very funny section on the linguistic knots that christians get themselves tied up in when trying to prove that they can believe in the trinity and still claim their religion is monotheistic :-)

                      Polytheism to monotheism to atheism. You know it makes sense.
                    • Polytheism to monotheism to atheism. You know it makes sense.

                      ... except, historically speaking, the evidence from the Babylonian captivity of the Hebrews does not support that line of thought. (Then again, try believing anything but Manichaeanism these days; people will look at you as if you'd grown a fifth leg.)

                    • Dawkins was on Colbert tonight. Yawn. He hasn't a single good argument. His arguments are basically of the form "we can't fit God into our human logic so therefore God doesn't exist" (though he concedes he cannot disprove God, of course, but he goes right up to that precipice and looks over it) and Douglas Adams skewered that philosophy pretty well in the opening to HHGTTG (though, himself an atheist, I am not sure if he realizes it, or if he thought he was actually making a good point against God's exis
                    • I haven't seen the Colbert interview yet, but I've been keeping up with most of Dawkins' recent press appearances via his web site [].

                      But you're an intelligent man Pudge and I'm sure that you'll realise that it's impossible to summarise a serious and intellectual book in a few minutes on an entertainment programme. For more serious discussion of Dawkins' views try the NY Academy of Science podcast []. There's also a selection of readings [] from the book that was recorded at Cambridge University. Or, of course, yo

                    • I could demonstrate that as well. It doesn't mean he or I am right about it. It does mean that what he supposes is what fits some peoples way of thinking. Isn't that how it all works? I can site many scientist that will demonstrate that there is support for "some" kind of intelligent design as well. So?

                    • If I recall correctly, it was via Asimov's research that I found out that early Jews, prior to the Babylonian captivity, were regarded as henotheists (belief in many gods with only one being worth of worship). After the captivity, they had settled on a religious structure very similar to the Babylonian dualist Mazda/Aingru-mainu belief structure (I could be misspelling that). Thus, there's at least an appearance of the Hewbrew people deciding to incorporate large portions of the Zoroastrian faith into the

                    • Of course, Dawkins admits that it's impossible to categorically disprove the existance of god, but but that doesn't mean that god must exist.

                      I never implied that, of course.

                      What Dawkins does do is to a) demonstrate that god is unnecessary to explain anything that we currently see in the universe

                      Well, anything that is currently possible to explain. He can't, of course, explain the origin of the universe without God, or even scientifically theorize it, without succumbing to logical fallacy (everything we kno
                    • I can never understand atheists. I can never understand theists either.

                      I’m staunchly agnostic. I am convinced that nothing we see inside the universe requires invoking a supernatural being to explain it; and that we do not and cannot know what caused the universe to come into existence – whether it was randomness, a supernatural being, or something else we might not even be able to fathom, it not being of this reality.

                      No arguments I’ve ever encountered that were put forth to prove or d

                    • My reading of the history suggests that Zoroastrianism was the borrower -- especially if you take the conservative dating of the book of Job to at least 960 BCE, if not earlier. If so, it's the nature of syncretic polytheism to elevate the idea of a powerful local or tribal deity into a place of power within a crowded pantheon.

                      Still, I repeat, it's amazingly difficult not to read the Manicheanist zeitgeist backwards into history. Maybe it's unfair to characterize post-Enlightenment western scholarship a