So I’m officially Roman Catholic.

The Easter Vigil Mass tonight was beautiful, and started with a fire outside, where a torch was lit and we all lit candles from the torch and went inside the church (St. Joan of Arc in Candler, NC).

It was a bilingual Mass, because 3 Mexican guy were also receiving the sacraments of Confirmation (my confirmation name is Catherine) and first Communion.

My sponsor Rachel (for infants, a sponsor is called a Godparent) was with me the whole time and helped me rehearse before Mass started. She presented me with a gorgeous rosary with red wooden beads that actually has the scent of roses!

The moment when we were called up to receive Confirmation (which comes first for adults), I panicked a little, but then got myself together and actually did feel filled with the Holy Spirit afterwards.

The Mass was about 3 hours, and because it was bilingual, instead of a lot of solemn hymns, Mexican hymns were sung in Spanish while someone played Spanish guitar, and everyone started dancing at the end.

Pictures were taken afterwards, and I got a lot of hugs (as did the 3 Mexican men) and congratulations, and also a gift bag containing all kinds of literature and a little plastic rosary.

I feel like I’m on a new journey now, that dovetails perfectly with the one I’ve been on.
I feel like I’ve returned home. Even though I was nominally Methodist, I was raised in urban New Jersey and New York, so I grew up with Catholicism. My family were not churchgoers or very religious. I went to Catholic schools and almost all our neighbors were either Catholic or Jewish. Because being at home was usually so unpleasant, I found a lot of comfort in the Mass and at my Catholic schools and at the homes of my Catholic friends. I’m glad to be home.

The other thing I love is feeling like I finally finished something I set out to do. For many years, I never finished anything I started–I’d either lose interest or assume I wouldn’t be able to do it. I had such dismal self-esteem. This is something I actually followed through on until I completed it, and that’s a great feeling. It means I’ve come a very long way from a year ago.

Here are all the photos.

Dressed and ready to go to the Easter Vigil Mass, around 6 PM:
easter_night2 easter_night3
easter_night5

After my conversion:
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Lighting of the torch; group photo of Father Dean, me, the 3 Mexican catechumens, and my sponsor Rachel.

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Photos of Father Dean, me, and Rachel.

Photo of the rosary Rachel gave me:
rosary

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I’m finally getting really excited about this.

'I'm afraid you're mistaken sir. A catalytic converter is not a Catholic missionary.'

In late October, after a lifetime of being agnostic but intermittently dabbling in various cults (Scientology) and religions including Buddhism and fundamentalist Christianity (Southern Baptist), I made the decision to become a Roman Catholic. If you’re interested in the reasoning behind my decision and the evolution of that decision, read the articles under “My Spiritual Journey” under “My Story” in the header (scroll to the bottom to find those articles), especially this one and this one.

My decision to follow Jesus Christ was quite strange and unexpected (it started as a sort of bet with God), and the two articles describe how that process worked. I was literally an agnostic on October 19th and made the decision to become Catholic on October 25th.

I’ve been attending Mass almost every Sunday (I did sleep in a few Sundays, lol) and always get something valuable out of them (besides finding the Mass very beautiful and appealing to me on an aesthetic level–I love the ritual), But still I struggled with doubts about the Church and Christianity in general, although I believed enough to accept Jesus Christ as my personal savior.

In last night’s RCIA class (which are very informal and it’s a small group), we talked about the role of Mary in the Church and the importance put on her. I already knew Mary is not worshipped and is not thought of as divine like God or Jesus, but she acts as an intercessor and is venerated–which means you can ask her to pray for you on the behalf of God. The saints serve the same role.

We talked about the qualities Mary had (and many of the saints had or have) that make her special to God. I won’t get into the idea of her being conceived without original sin because that gets into the dogma and many of you do not believe this (and I admit I have doubts myself). But I will say that Mary in particular had qualities that are not valued in today’s narcissistic world. Mary was the opposite of a narcissist–she was humble, obedient to God, compassionate, merciful, and very maternal, and yet she was very, very strong and her love of God and her Son knew no limits. Personally I think she was an empath. She appeals to me because she’s the mother we all should have had. No matter how old we are, we never lose our need for a loving, compassionate, merciful mother. Mary can be the mother I never had.

La_Vierge_au_lys
“La Vierge au lys” by William-Adolphe Bouguereau – PaintingHere.com. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:La_Vierge_au_lys.jpg#/media/File:La_Vierge_au_lys.jpg

It was the most enlightening and interesting RCIA class we’ve had yet.

New conversions are done on Easter Saturday (April 4th this year) and the heavy duty preparation for new members takes plan during Lent (which began on Ash Wednesday at the end of February). I chose a sponsor (Godparent) about a month ago, a lovely woman named Rachel. Last Saturday we went to a Mass at another church where the catechumens (people converting) were introduced by their sponsors and blessed by the Bishop of the Charlotte Diocese. Afterwards there was a brunch across the street where I got to talk to the Bishop, who hugged me.

But I still didn’t feel as excited about it as I felt I should. I still had doubts (and still do) but there are some doctrines I want to believe so much that I’m willing to suspend my disbelief and take into account that some things that happen may not have a scientific explanation–or do have one that we cannot explain with the scientific knowledge we currently have. I was surprised to find the Catholic church so friendly to science (including divinely inspired evolution, which I believe in anyway) but it really shouldn’t be too surprising, because so many of our most renowned scientists were in the Catholic clergy or just very devout Catholics.

One of the “mysteries” I’m willing to suspend disbelief on is transubstantiation (the idea that the host and wine during communion actually transform into the body and blood of Jesus Christ, and are not just symbolic. This is in the Bible so in no way goes against Biblical teaching, but Protestantism changed this idea into one where the host is merely a symbol or remembrance, not the actual body of Christ.

I absolutely love the idea of something as unique and miraculous as taking the actual body of Christ into myself (taking him into my soul), so I’m willing to suspend disbelief and in time I may actually believe this is what happens.

transubstantiation
Transubstantiation.

I_cant_believe_its_not_jesus
A humorous take on the above — sorry, too funny not to share.

Today I had an appointment with Father C. about my first Penance (confession). Rather than being a dark and punitive thing and something to dread, it brings relief. It seems to work almost like Step 4 of a 12 Step Program, where the idea of “confessing” your sins (wrongdoings) to a priest takes the burden of guilt off of you, and you are absolved and forgiven. Then you are told what you need to do, usually reciting some Our Fathers or Hail Marys. I don’t have any problem with that, and being the kind of person I am who struggles with guilt constantly, I think this will be very helpful.

My first Penance (one of the seven Sacraments) will take place on Monday night. Over the weekend, Father C. wants me to make a list of what I think of as my sins, and try to put them in some kind of order. I don’t have to list every sin I ever committed, because I’d be confessing until the day I die, but just the ones I think are important or feel the worst about. I will be praying for guidance this week because I want my list to contain the sins that matter the most to God, not necessarily just in my own mind.

On Holy Thursday (one week from today), I’m attending a foot washing service, where my sponsor and the priest will each wash my feet, symbolizing how Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. I feel strongly that this will be an extremely moving and very spiritual moment for me. It’s a loving act, but the recipient must be willing to become both humble and vulnerable to fully understand the meaning of Jesus’ act.

foot_washing

Jesus spoke to his disciples of the meaning of foot washing in John 13: 1-15:

1 And before the feast of the passover, Jesus knowing that His hour hath come, that He may remove out of this world unto the Father, having loved His own who are in the world—to the end He loved them. 2 And supper being come, the devil already having put it into the heart of Judas of Simon, Iscariot, that he may deliver Him up, 3 Jesus, knowing that all things the Father hath given to Him—into His hands—and that from God He came forth, and unto God He goeth, 4 doth rise from the supper, and doth lay down his garments, and having taken a towel, he girded himself; 5 afterward he putteth water into the basin, and began to wash the feet of his disciples, and to wipe with the towel with which he was being girded. 6 He cometh, therefore, unto Simon Peter, and that one saith to him, “Sir, thou—dost Thou wash my feet?” 7 Jesus answered and said to him, “That which I do thou hast not known now, but thou shalt know after these things;” 8 Peter saith to him, “Thou mayest not wash my feet—to the age.” Jesus answered him, “If I may not wash thee, thou hast no part with me.” 9 Simon Peter saith to him, “Sir, not my feet only, but also the hands and the head.” 10 Jesus saith to him, “He who hath been bathed hath no need, save to wash his feet, for he is clean altogether; and ye are clean, but not all;” 11 for He knew him who is delivering him up; because of this He said, “Ye are not all clean.” 12 When, therefore, He washed their feet, and took His garments, having reclined at meat again, He said to them, “Do ye know what I have done to you? 13 Ye call me, ‘The Teacher’ and ‘The Lord’, and ye say well, for I am; 14 if then I did wash your feet—the Lord and the Teacher—ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given thee an example, that ye should do as I have done to ye. Verily, verily, I say unto ye, the servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.”

I’m meeting with Father one more time after that to talk about the Big Event, which will take place on Saturday night, the day before Easter (that’s when the big Easter mass where the new converts are welcomed into the Church takes place. In the Catholic church, Easter is a much bigger deal than Christmas).

On Saturday morning of the big day, I attend a rehearsal with my sponsor. That night, at 8 PM the Mass takes place. My daughter is the only family member I have attending, but that’s okay. At that time I’ll receive the Sacraments of Communion (no, I do not have to wear a lacy white dress or a veil like little Catholic girls do) and then Confirmation. I have chosen Catherine as my confirmation name — Saint Catherine of Siena was a strong faithful woman of God, and she is the patron saint of writers. I love the strength of the name. I didn’t have to think about this one too much. It just came to me as being perfect.

I don’t have to be re-baptized. My Methodist baptism is considered acceptable (which surprised me). Any Baptism using water and the sign of the cross is sanctioned as acceptable in the Roman Catholic church.

I’m a little nervous of course, but after my meeting tonight, I’m finally realizing how close I am to this happening and just how big this is for me, and finally feeling excited about it. I’m not without my doubts, but am willing to take that big leap of faith and I can’t wait.

If you’re interested in reading other stories of people who decided to convert (or return to) Catholicism, WhyImCatholic.com is is a great website and a lot of fun to read, too.

The day I went to Hell.

singularity-mind

A old friend from another website I used to frequent and I were having an interesting conversation earlier today on Facebook about my conversion to Catholicism on Easter. My friend converted two years ago (from Episcopalian) so of course he knows much more than I do.

Both of us love philosophical musing and talking about weird, metaphysical subjects so as conversations sometimes will, soon I was asking him if he believed in Hell (he does but doesn’t think it’s a hellfire and brimstone sort of place) and if he believes all narcissists will go there (he thinks they will and there’s no hope for any of them; I don’t think that’s necessarily the case unless they’re psychopathic or malignant).

I asked him what he thought hell was like and he replied that it was worse than a fire and brimstone hell because it would involve the lost soul forever drifting alone in between the galaxies, where there are no stars and no light…utterly alone, and lost for all eternity with no hope of finding their way back to…anything at all.

This suddenly brought back memories of a bad LSD trip I took many years ago, when I was in my 20s. I was never adventurous about taking recreational drugs and pretty much stuck with alcohol and pot, which seemed safe. I must have known on some level I didn’t have the right sort of temperament to react well to a strong psychedelic drug, so I never messed with them except for this one time.

Psychedelic drugs make you extremely suggestible, and heighten whatever mood you’re already in or exaggerate what you’re already worried about. This is why it’s recommended that if you decide to experiment with this class of recreationals, to only do it in a setting you’re comfortable in and have a trusted “trip sitter” who is not under the influence there just in case a freak-out occurs. As a person who was constantly on edge and a nervous wreck anyway (and I also took it with someone I didn’t know well), the outcome wasn’t going to be good (but it sure was interesting).

My trip memories came flooding back (not as a flashback, just a memory) so I described these memories to my Facebook friend today. Personally I think these drugs can be extremely dangerous because I think that, much like messing with the occult, they can open doors better left bolted shut, and reveal truths about the universe we may not be ready to know or ever should know. You can be shown things you can’t begin to understand and that lack of understanding will terrify you. Basically, they constitute a way to eat from a Tree of Knowledge that can really fuck your head up for a long time, even causing a psychotic break, or at the least just cause extreme discomfort for awhile.

At first I thought nothing was going to happen, because the weirdness didn’t kick in for almost half an hour. Then I started to shiver as if I was cold but I wasn’t cold. The shivering was coming from inside me. Everything became metallic. My surroundings developed sharp edges that gleamed like the edges of knives and the sounds around me sounded like metal and glass.

metallic_tree

We were outside. I watched a car zoom by and thought it looked and sounded funny–sort of like a cartoon–so I started laughing. I thought it was alive. I started rambling (probably incoherently) about why cars weren’t considered to be living things because they sure acted like living things and even had “systems”–the body covered with a metal skin, the engine (the heart), the transmission and electrical system (the nervous system), the various fluids that lubricated and made it run (blood and other bodily fluids), even a waste elimination system (the exhaust). And they had four “legs” that kept them moving. They could get sick and be “diagnosed.” Their inner workings seemed as complex to me as the inside of the human body. They even had quirks and “personalities.”

This early part of the trip was kind of fun but I was still disturbed by the metallic sound and cartoonish look of everything. The world seemed like it was screaming and shards of metal were slicing into my brain like razor blades. A fly landed on my arm and I screamed because I thought it was some kind of tiny machine that could see inside my soul. The fact that such “engineered insects” and even smaller nanomachines actually exist freaks me out more than a little.

artificial_insect
Creepy artificially engineered insect.

Then I had a bizarre thought that came out of nowhere. I “realized” that nothing was real–that everything and everyone I had ever known, everything I ever learned about or experienced, in fact every person and every experience I had ever had since the time I was born–none of it was real. Everything and everyone I knew was merely a creation of my own mind. (I understand some Eastern religious practices actually do believe this).

But if everything I saw and knew and experienced was nothing but a mental construct I created from my own mind, and nothing really existed, then where were my own thoughts coming from?

nothing_is_real

I was a singularity, a tiny speck of bright white consciousness, floating alone in the black void of deep space, light years away or an eternity away from any known universe. I felt utterly alone and lonely, and wondered why only my consciousness existed. I was overcome with profound sadness.

And then realized this meant I must be God. I was pure consciousness floating bodiless within an eternity of nothingness. I could create my reality out of nothing. If that was the case, I could create a whole new universe. As God, I was the consciousness that brought on the Big Bang. I thought about creating a new universe, one that would make me happy instead of so miserable, afraid and sad. But I was too afraid to create anything at all. What sort of “God” would be so scared and so powerless?

god_creating

I started to freak out. I remembered my past life, my job, my school, my friends, my family. I wanted to get back but didn’t know how. I had a massive panic attack so intense I thought I would die. Maybe I was already dead. Maybe I had never existed at all…who the hell was I? Where was I?

I was trapped in some weird time loop. Although I (think) I only had these realizations, thoughts and visions once, I had the unsettling feeling I had been through this exact experience many times before, and in fact this experience had been my only reality throughout all eternity. Everything else had been a dream. This was the only reality.

Gradually I began to come back to the world. My friend told me he was worried about me because all I had done was sit on the floor, backed into a corner of his kitchen, moaning and mumbling incoherently. He said my eyes looked like black pools of terror. He tried to give me some coffee but I had pushed him away. I didn’t remember doing that.

It was definitely an interesting experience but one I would never try again.

My Facebook friend and I started talking about the devil and whether he existed. Anyone who would think of themselves as God, even in a deluded drug induced state, was being influenced by Satan, who thought of himself as God or at least that he should have been God. I’m still not sure I believe in Satan, but this argument made a kind of sense. The overall feeling of my LSD experience was one of profound despair, terror, evil and separation from God.

blackhole2
Could this be Hell?

Being “God”–a singularity of consciousness amid an eternity of nothingness–was terrifying. I told my friend I thought perhaps I went to Hell and it was exactly as he had described: a place of nothingness between the galaxies or even outside any known universe, perhaps within a massive black hole, an eternal separation from all that was real, whether bad, good or in between.

I was never so glad to return to the mundane and too often very boring and painful reality of the earthly world I lived in, just one insignificant human among billions of others just like me. I actually appreciated all the little things that angered, upset or annoyed me, at least for a little while.

Looking back on that experience now, I think I actually was in hell. I think that, if Satan does exist, utter aloneness, terror and despair is what he feels (but don’t worry, I’m not Mick Jagger and have no sympathy for the devil). Satan is the Ultimate Narcissist, and still believes he is greater than God, the source of all that is–and he hates God for casting him out of heaven into that eternal black void of nothingness.

Wow, this is getting real…

psalm139

Back in late October, I made the decision to become Catholic. I’ve been attending RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation) classes every Wednesday night since then.
If you want to read about how my decision evolved, you can read these blog posts:
My Problem with Christianity
I Made a Little Deal with God Today
So Apparently God Accepted My Deal (Part 1 of 2)
So Apparently God Accepted My Deal (Part 2 of 2)
Which Religion is the One True Religion? (not really about my spiritual journey, but might be of interest to readers interested in this topic)

The mass where I’ll be initiated into the church will be at the Easter Vigil Mass on the evening of Saturday, April 4th. I’m the only Anglo candidate this year (the others are Hispanic and attend the Spanish speaking masses). This part of the country isn’t exactly swarming with people wanting to become Catholic!

I’ll be receiving all the sacraments (communion and confirmation) at that time (Confession must be done prior to that). My Methodist baptism is recognized as valid, which surprised me. I have to find the certificate though, which I know I do have, so no having to contact my parents about it. Whew!

I met with the priest tonight to discuss what else I need to do to get ready. There are a few special masses I need to attend, and I also will be meeting with the Bishop in a few weeks. Time has really flown–it’s going to happen in exactly two months! Two months ago was December, and that seems just like yesterday. Things are getting real.

I feel like this is going to be a life changing event for me. I know about all the problems people have with the Catholic church, and some of those arguments are valid. But I feel like this is the direction that’s right for me and that God is leading me to. My other blog posts will explain why.

In fact, the other day I was talking to an old friend on Facebook and he told me he became Catholic last year and it’s the best decision he ever made. I was encouraged by that because it’s all a little scary!

Scientology: a cult of psychopathy

hubbard

Scientology, like most cults, uses exactly the same brainwashing techniques the narcissist does to recruit and retain its members. Here’s a video I found on the Ex-Scientologist Message Board, where Sam Vaknin talks about the “cult of the narcissist,” and even though it’s not specific to Scientology, it’s spot on in describing the mind games narcissists use to trap their prey (sorry, I was unable to embed the video). The same techniques apply to most cults. Scientology is one of the most dangerous.

In 1978 and 1979, I flirted with Scientology. This happened when I came across one of its books (one of the only ones not written by its founder L. Ron Hubbard, who was not only a malignant narcissist of the highest order, but also a very bad writer), an easy to read and humorous “self help” book called “How to Choose your People,” by a writer named Ruth Minshull. The book was discontinued many years ago, probably because it wasn’t written by Hubbard and therefore not acceptable “scipture.” “How to Choose Your People” was entertaining and well written, and I found its idea of something called “The Tone Scale” intriguing and it seemed to make sense. I liked the idea that emotions ran on a sort of continuum, with one logically leading to the next. Every human being can be placed somewhere on this “tone scale.” Although most people move around on the scale according to their mood, everyone can be placed at a “home” tone, where they will be most of the time. The “tones” ranged from Apathy (the lowest you could go–this would be where severely depressed and suicidal people are) to Enthusiasm (very happy and contented people). Each tone was assigned an arbitrary number, although no one ever explained what those numbers meant.

There were two “emotions” around the middle of the scale, called Covert Hostility (1.1) and No Sympathy (1.2, making it slightly “better”). Although not at the bottom of the scale, while I was involved in Scientology (and the related Dianetics, the mental “technology” that is similar in some ways to psychoanalysis and serves as a tool to brainwash its members), Covert Hostility and No Sympathy were considered by most Scientologists to be the two worst places to be on the Tone Scale. No one wanted to be labeled a “1.1.” Because if you were, it meant you were a Suppressive Person–that is, a psychopathic person who could harm the Church and its members. If you were pegged a “1.1” or a “1.2” you could be excommunicated or punished by a cruel form of shunning (which I was subjected to at one point).

The traits of someone with a “tone” of Covert Hostility or No Sympathy are exactly the same of those of the malignant narcissist. Here is a picture of the tone scale as it appeared on the cover of Minshull’s 1976 book. (There is an expanded tone scale too, which has additional levels, but for our purposes this one is sufficient).

minshull1

Click image for larger view.

So I finished Minshull’s book and was intrigued enough to go to the local Scientology Center (on New York’s upper west side–I was living in Queens, NY at the time) and find out more. They gave me a “personality test,” that was supposed to identify what my issues and weak points were. There were 200 questions on the test, but when I was done, someone sat down with me and went over my results and convinced me I needed Dianetics auditing or classes in Scientology (much cheaper than Dianetics auditing) to overcome these weak points. The recruiter was very convincing and friendly, and assured me I would only be set back $15 to sign up for the HAS course (Hubbard Apprentice Scientologist aka “Communication Course”), which was really training in something called Training Routines (TR’s) which were used as brainwashing techniques.

At first the TR’s were very seductive–they were fun and actually seemed to work. They did help me be able to “confront” people better, or at least seemed to. The TR’s themselves involved things like sitting in a chair staring at someone as long as you could without reacting, laughing, or looking away. After this, the ante was upped to something called “bullbaiting,” where the person could try to get you to react and “lose your Confront” by insulting you, trying to make you laugh, or calling you names. There were higher levels of TR’s that involved walking across the room, touching things, asking if birds could fly, and reading passages from “Alice in Wonderland” of all things.

All these things were supposed to help you communicate with others better and raise your “tone,” but in actuality, these were all brainwashing techniques that would eventually result in giving you the infamous blank stare that many Scientologists seem to have while under the cult’s thrall.

After I “passed” the Communications Course (by getting a “floating needle” on a lie-detector type of device called the E-Meter), I was convinced without too much difficulty to sign up for the next course, the HQS course (Hubbard Qualified Scientologist). That one set me back $250. (The prices are probably much higher today). By this time of course, I’d been sufficiently indoctrinated that $250 for further “processing” and “training” didn’t seem that bad. It didn’t take much to convince me to hand over the money.

In order to help pay for the course (because in those days $250 was a lot of money, especially for a 19 year old) it was suggested I work at the Center part time, answering phones and opening and distributing mail. The position paid nothing, but I got “credits” to help pay for the course. Of course, by now I was spending most of my free time at the Center, because right after “work” it was time for the classes, which ran about 4 hours a night (5 days a week).

Students were closely monitored and every class ended with a session on the E-Meter. If you were caught yawning or daydreaming you were told you had a “misunderstood word” and had to go back and re-read Hubbard’s unreadable material to try to find the word you did not understand. You were not allowed to move on until you found the word and “passed” on the E-Meter. I began to realize I wasn’t having much fun anymore, but if you criticized Scientology or its “teaching technology” in any way, you would be sent to Ethics.

e_meter
Scientology E-Meter

No one wanted to be sent to Ethics. If you were sent to Ethics, it meant there was a problem and you were considered a “Potential Trouble Source” and disciplinary action would be taken. I was sent to Ethics about three times, all for very minor transgressions such as minor criticism. The punishments ranged from having to re-read material (and be “passed” being connected to an E-Meter), to cutting off friends and family members who could be potential “Suppressive Persons” or enemies of Scientology (you would be required to write them a letter telling them you were cutting them off), to shunning, to excommunication.

I was once subjected to shunning. I was told although I would still be required to fulfill my job duties and attend classes, no one would be allowed to speak to me and I was allowed to speak to no one (unless it was directly related to my job or something I was learning). It was horrible. This torment on for several days, until I was “passed” up a level and allowed to be spoken to again. But before that could happen, I had to go up to every high level member and employee, make amends to them and “re-introduce” myself.

Toward the end of the HQS course, you are told to recruit other people into Scientology. I had to go outside, no matter what the weather, and try to talk people into coming up to the Center to take its personality test. The more advanced TR’s taught in this class became increasingly bizarre. These sessions could go on for hours, and as part of the training, I was also required to “audit” other students and conduct TR’s on them. If they proved difficult or uncooperative, I was the one who was blamed and was not allowed to stop “running the TR’s” until my student had passed on the E-Meter. If it went on all night, then so it did. You were not allowed breaks to eat or rest, and neither was your student. I remember once being so exhausted from lack of sleep and hunger that I burst into tears in the middle of running a session, and was immediately sent to Ethics and that’s how I got the “shunning” punishment. I was stunned by their total lack of empathy.

I thought about leaving, but didn’t dare–because they threatened you with something called “Fair Game.” No one ever explained exactly what that was, but in Hubbard’s indecipherable scripture, “fair game” appeared to imply the Church reserved the right to stalk you, torment or even kill you if you “blew” (left). I’d also paid so much money into it by this point and spent so much time with them that I was hesitant to toss in the towel.

Shortly before I was to graduate from HQS (which I never did finish), I was sent to talk to a recruiter about my next “step up the bridge.” I was told I should sign up for “Life Repair,” which cost $6K. I told the recruiter I did not have that kind of money. The recruiter turned to the hard sell at that point. He told me to get a bank loan or ask my parents for the money. Neither was possible. There was no way I could pay back the bank, as my other (paying) job was part time and paid only $2.75 an hour (minimum wage at that time), and my parents were not the type to hand over large sums of money, even for something legitimate.

Finally, after two hours of unsuccessfully trying to get me to sign up for this $6,000 auditing package, the recruiter gave up and was quite hostile to me after that. He not only told me that I must not really be interested in moving up the Bridge, but that I was probably a Suppressive Person and an enemy of Scientology because I would not put myself in huge debt to continue to be brainwashed.

It was at this point I left the Church. I just didn’t care anymore. I had gradually come to realize that the “emotional tone” of the organization was somewhere around Covert Hostility and No Sympathy–which was quite interesting since those were the tones that were the most hated and feared and were the realm of the dreaded Suppressive Person. In other words, Scientology was a psychopathic, narcissistic cult, founded by a psychopathic malignant narcissist (1.1 on his own Tone Scale) whose ravings (and fabrications as a “war hero” among other things) are legendary. What they were really doing was projecting their own emotional tone (malignant narcissism) onto those who disagreed with them.

I also realized how I had been gradually seduced into this psychopathic organization through misrepresentation, manipulation, threats and lies. The personality test and the inexpensive and fun HAS course that promised to help me feel happier and more confident was merely the “love bombing” phase before the abuse that would come later and increase over time. I did NOT want to become one of the upper-level Scientologists, with their blank, weird stares, creepy smiles and total lack of empathy. Just look at Tom Cruise today: does he even seem human anymore? Hell, I’d rather be a Suppressive Person any day than one of them.

I didn’t get nearly as far up the “Bridge” as many other people, and therefore did not experience some of the trauma and torture inflicted on members who are more deeply enmeshed with this psychopathic cult. Eventually they WILL take over your entire life. For anyone interested in finding out more about the evil mindgames this cult plays, its psychopathic paranoia about both government agencies like the IRS and its hatred and fear of traditional psychotherapy and psychiatry, and the horrific (and sometimes fatal) punishments inflicted on many of its members and their families, I highly recommend either of these two websites that call out Scientology for what it really is.

The Ex-Scientologist Message Board: http://www.forum.exscn.net/ (This is where I found the Sam Vaknin video posted at the beginning of this article).
Operation Clambake: The Inner Secrets of Scientology: http://www.xenu.net/

Oh, and this is my 300th post!

Do dogs go to heaven?

This is the first time I am reblogging a post I disagree with. I respect this blogger’s religious beliefs and I’m a Christian, but sometimes the crazy on this blog is off the charts, with all its hellfire and brimstone pontifications and nutty conspiracy theories about things like the Illuminati. He has a vendetta against Catholics and I do have a problem with that.

I follow his blog anyway because of its WTF factor. I never commented on any of this blogger’s posts before but I couldn’t let this one pass.

When I look into the eyes of my dog (or any dog, or cat for that matter) I see love, pain, shame, joy, sadness, fear– the whole gamut of emotions humans experience there. They must have a soul. I think animals automatically go to heaven because they do not have free will.
Besides, Heaven without pets in it would be hell to me.

Joel Osteen worships himself.

joelosteen

I found this intriguing article at Salon.com about the famous megachurch leader, Joel Osteen, a proponent of the peculiarly American “prosperity gospel,” a belief that God will reward you with material wealth if you are a True Believer. The article is a bit old, but is still relevant and I never saw it before, so, well, it gets added to the Museum of Narcissism.

If Mr. Osteen makes people feel better about themselves, fine, but Mr. Osteen is like a heroin addict getting his fix of narcissistic supply from his many followers, who worship him as if he were God himself. Frighteningly, Big Religion is full of such people who really only care about their own glorification.
What would God think?

Here is the article (written by Chris Lehmann at Salon.com):

If history is told by the winners, then Joel Osteen — the relentlessly upbeat spiritual caretaker of the national attitude — is history’s designated chaplain. In a marathon Sunday faith rally in the heart of the nation’s capital, Osteen, who presides over America’s largest megachurch congregation, the nondenominational Lakewood Church in Houston, exhorted the tens of thousands of believers amassed in Nationals Stadium to “live in victory,” to seize their “destiny moments,” and to fulfill God’s plan for their personal, financial and emotional success.

The Washington rally — billed as “America’s Night of Hope” — had gone a bit afoul of its own victory plan, however. It had originally been scheduled the night before, but as a persistent afternoon drizzle gave way to some spirited cloudbursts, the event’s organizers rescheduled it for the following afternoon. As I approached the centerfield box office outside Nationals Park on Saturday, the marquee overhead bore what had to be the glummest rainout announcement of the young 2012 baseball season: “Night of Hope postponed until 4 p.m. Sunday.” And since the Osteen message involves a lot of merchandising, the imposing tables hawking T-shirts and other commemorative swag seemed suddenly off-kilter. One prominent Night of Hope T-shirt was emblazoned with the inspirational divine message “I can do all things” — all things, that is, but summon the faithful to stand out in the rain.

But the Osteens were not about to let the intervention of the elements become any sort of setback. As the megachurch pastor — turned out in a blue suit and a beatific grin, looking for all the world like a fitter Tim Allen, fresh out of rehab — took his spot at the second-base perimeter of the infield, before the bank of TV cameras set up on the pitchers mound, he called out, “Isn’t it great to be here? It’s another great day the Lord has made!” He paused to note that, yes, “we had some rain last night,” but that the event’s reshuffled schedule could well mean that some people who couldn’t have made the evening version of the prayer gathering might well have turned up serendipitously today. In any event, Osteen declared his certitude that “God put the right people here right now.”

That confident assertion of — and indeed, identification with — the divine will is one of the calling cards of the Osteen faith. Amid all the spirited self-affirmations and folksy homilies that stud an Osteen sermon, it’s easy to miss the oddly deterministic invocations of divine prerogative summoned up by the preacher, who belongs to the “Word Faith” tradition of Pentecostal belief. Osteen’s serene depictions of God’s eternally uptending designs for the fates of individual believers are a sort of inverted Calvinism. Where the Puritan forebears of today’s Protestant scene beheld a terrible, impersonal Creator whose rigid system of eternal reward and punishment dispatched many an infant and solemn believer to the pit of damnation, Osteen’s God is an intensely personal presence, guiding believers out of pitfalls into inevitable glory and joy — not so much a raging Patriarch as a genial cruise director. “God’s dream for our own life is so much bigger than our own,” went one frequent refrain at the D.C. rally. “Let’s not put any limits on God.” Osteen characterized the Deity as a “running-over” and “abundant” God. “Have you ever been to a fast-food restaurant, and they ask you if you want to supersize this? Well, God is a supersizing God,” who is determined, Osteen assured the crowd, to “supersize your joy.”

It stands to reason, in this arrangement of cosmic fate, that the stubborn human weakness for anxious introspection and downbeat self-doubt is something of an affront to the author of being. “When you are criticizing yourself,” Osteen announced, “you are criticizing God’s creation. The next time you think something negative, turn that around, and say, ‘I am God’s masterpiece.’”

The talismanic faith in positive utterance is another key article of belief in the Word Faith tradition. Some Word Faith devotees are devout believers in faith-healing, and one of the key episodes Osteen cites in his own account of his faith journey is the miraculous recovery of his mother from an apparently terminal case of liver cancer in 1981. Faced with the prospect of losing his mother, the young Osteen — then a communications student at Oral Roberts University with no ministerial ambitions — turned to prayer, saying to God, as he now recounts, “I know you can do what doctors can’t do, what medical science can’t do.” Sure enough, Osteen’s mother, Dodie, went on to be cancer-free, and took to the podium on Sunday after her son’s testimonial. She reprised the story of how she fought off the specter of death by seeking out the “most healing” passages of scripture, which she assembled into a digest she still consults regularly: “Like American Express, I don’t leave home without it,” she said. Then she issued a disclaimer for her listeners contending with severe illness: “I don’t advise you not to seek treatment — get treatment any way you can.” Such cautions sounded a bit rushed and legalistic next to her own account of her recovery: When she and her preacher-husband both sensed the end was near, she recalled, “We lay on our faces … He said, ‘I need you, the church needs you, the children need you … And now, almost 31 years later, I won the battle and so will you!” God, after all, “delights in answering the prayers of his children,” and “loves everybody the same, but he can do for you what he did for me.”

The Word Faith image of the wonder-working, healing God is discomfiting to ponder, and not just because he might tempt desperately sick believers to go rogue beyond the dictates of medical science. The constant recitation of God’s transcendent goodness and the deference paid to his ironclad ability to lift believers magically out of suffering and woe both subtly downgrade the divine presence into a glorified lifestyle concierge. This God has no real way of accounting for the age-old paradoxes of theology, such as the tolerance of personal and historic evil, or the deeper ironies and unintended consequences of the believing life. Even less does the Osteen family’s success gospel encompass a sustained social ethic — even though the D.C. event featured an appeal on behalf of the World Vision ministries to adopt a needy child in the developing world. The believer’s chief task is to ratify the preexisting divine script of success in his or her individual life — and then to bear testimony to that joyous transformation in a community of like-minded success believers.

It’s a curiously childlike vision of faith — a point driven home in a homily offered up by Joel’s wife, Victoria, who serves as a kind of co-pastor of the separate domestic sphere at the couple’s revival meetings. When she finds herself assailed by cares, anxieties and negative thoughts, Victoria reported, “I visualize a bouquet of helium balloons in my hands, and I literally hold those balloons out and release them to the heavens … And as I release those balloons to Him, I say, ‘I may not have the power to change my circumstances, but God has that power to change our circumstances.’” In a later homily on the properties of unconditional love and forgiveness, Victoria delivered an extended gloss on what was apparently one of the few remotely traumatic moments in her suburban Texas upbringing — a time when, as a freshly licensed driver, she had taken out her dad’s car and negligently instructed a friend to roll down a passenger-side window that was malfunctioning, thereby breaking it once and for all. When she finally summoned the nerve to fess up to her dad, she found him to be disappointed but gloriously forgiving; he “didn’t judge my future from that one mistake” — and neither will the indulgent dad of the Osteen heavens. “You may not have been shown unconditional love in your life,” Victoria announced, “but God loves you unconditionally.” The problem, of course, is that even those of us who did survive unhappy childhoods are no longer 16 — and as a result, we need a God who can meet the challenges of the new responsibilities we’ve taken on as we’ve matured, not a figure of undifferentiated sentiment, handing our forgiveness and love like lottery tickets.

The other childlike quality of the Lakewood account of divine grace has to do with the past — which, together with negative thinking, represents the closest thing to evil in the Osteen’s scheme of salvation. The past is bad because it mires believers in remembered hurts and slights, and thereby obstructs God’s grander design for their lives. “When we hold on to the past, when we don’t go to God, that just puts more baggage in our suitcases,” Victoria exhorted, in a not-altogether-wieldy metaphor.

This spiritual hostility to the past was an all too frequent refrain in the event’s musical selections — a monotonous offering of anthemic, bombastic Christian rock, all composed without the benefit of a single minor chord or any discernible melody. “I’m moving forward,” went the lyrics to one of these intra-sermon studies in Journey-esque hymnody. “I’m not going back / I’m moving ahead / I’m here to declare to you that the past is over.” An American idol contestant named Danny Gokey also offered testimony about how the Osteens had helped him conquer his depression in the wake of the untimely passing of his wife. Gokey then performed a Christian rock number of his own, “My Best Days Are Ahead of Me,” which seemed to make short work of his once-debilitating grief: “I don’t get lost in the past or get stuck in some sad memories,” he sang, rather creepily; the song’s bridge announced that “Age isn’t nothing but a number,” and then resolved on a Successories-style upgrade of a well-known Army recruiting slogan: “If I keep getting better / I can be anything I want to be.”

There’s a term from the psychiatric clinics that neatly captures the outlook of someone possessed of grandiose fantasies about the imperial reach of the self, and a principled refusal to acknowledge anything poised to diminish such fantasies — such as the passage of time. That term is “narcissistic personality disorder,” and it does nothing to detract from the positive features of the Osteen gospel — the injunctions to persevere in the face of adversity, or the appeals for donations to World Vision — to note that this is a system of faith tailor-made to sustain narcissistic delusion. To grasp the overweening self-absorption of the Osteen faith, one need look no further than the frequent recourse Osteen makes to his own success story in sealing the case for God’s providential plan for the believer’s own life. Now, unlike other well-known evangelists, Osteen can’t lay much claim to a hardscrabble Horatio Alger-style life story. His 1920s forebear in Pentecostal media preaching, Aimee Semple McPherson, was a single-mother missionary before coming into fame and fortune as an evangelical celebrity in the Radio Age; Billy Graham was the son of a poor North Carolina dairy farmer. Osteen, by contrast, was a second-generation evangelical leader, who’d been working as a TV producer for his father John Osteen’s growing ministry before he succeeded to the elder Osteen’s pulpit after his father’s death. His personal biography tracks closer to fellow Pentecostal TV preacher Pat Robertson’s background: Robertson was the son of a U.S. senator before finding his own adult spiritual calling.

Nonetheless, Osteen repeatedly cites his own success presiding over the spiritual flock he inherited as the prime exhibit of God’s ready transposition of divine grace into worldly success. When he first acceded to the pulpit, he recalled from his riser above second base, he felt no special aptitude for ministering; he’d heard that Lakewood church leaders were raising doubts about his vocation, and the church needed to move into a bigger, upgraded new facility. “At one point,” Osteen preached, “it seemed like everything was coming against me. The enemy was fighting me not from where I was coming, but from where I was going … He didn’t want Lakewood to be in the Compaq Center” — the former home arena for the Houston Rockets, and now home to the Lakewood congregation of nearly 50,000 souls. The Compaq Center deal is a frequent touchstone in Osteen’s faith reminiscence; it occupies a good stretch of his blockbuster best-selling self-improvement tract, “Become a Better You,” which also finds evidence of divine favor in a home-flipping deal Joel and Victoria struck at the height of the housing bubble, as well as in such mundane votes of divine confidence as setting the pastor up with a premium parking space. Indeed, the steady parade of testimonials from the wider Osteen clan on the Night of Hope risers bespeaks a family-wide penchant for casting one’s commonplace personal biography as a sort of infomercial version of the Christian faith. (In addition to mother Dodie and wife Victoria, Osteen’s brother Paul, who runs a medical charity in Africa, took to the stage Sunday to relate a more responsible story of healing, in which due medical diligence properly preceded the broader appeal to faith; Joel’s two children, Alexandra and Jonathan, are respectively a vocalist and guitarist in the ministry’s Christian rock ensemble.)

Now, it may very well be that in a certain kind of conviction of grace, believers feel themselves suffused with the divine presence, and find their most quotidian activities reflect celestial favor; the 14th-century Saint Julian of Norwich recorded a vision in which she beheld the entirety of creation in an object no larger than a hazelnut, cupped in her hand. Perhaps, in this view of things, a converted sports arena or excellent parking spot is no great stretch when it comes to testifying on behalf of a God for whom all things are possible.

Still, the claustral feel of Osteen’s success gospel paradoxically works exactly the same effect that he warns believers to resist: It imposes limits on God, by largely confining his workings to the dominant American culture of success. If the Osteen-coached believer does not reap abundant and large reward in career, family life or creative pursuits, they are not necessarily going to curse their God, as Job’s comforters had counseled him to do amid his notorious personal setbacks. But neither are they going to make the key connections that earlier Protestant divines have preached, going back to Jonathan Edwards and John Calvin: that the divinity does not, in fact, have your own personal happiness occupying pride of place on his exhaustive to-do list. The universe is ultimately about a larger set of concerns, and faith concerns a much vaster striving toward justice than believers are wont to see in their personal affairs, their social conquests or their annual paychecks. This is why Edwards, for all of his better-known hell-and-brimstone sermons, urged onto believers a stoic “consent to being in general” — not a plan for individual life advancement.

This disjuncture between Protestantism’s more humbling counsel and the feel-good Word Faith gospel became most painfully evident during one of Osteen’s closing perorations. In chilling detail, he recounted the story of a young Tutsi Christian woman who’d hid out in the bathroom of her church pastor’s office at the height of the 1994 Rwandan genocide. The machete-wielding Hutu killers who pursued her returned to the pastor’s office every day for 91 days, usually calling out for her by name. At one point, Osteen said, a Hutu militia man was poised to turn the knob on the door to the tiny bathroom where the woman was quartered alongside six other Tutsi believers — but at the last moment, he became distracted and walked away. Finally, when the genocide had been contained, the woman was free, and has been traveling with ministers ever since to testify to the amazing story of her survival. “Nearly 1 million Rwandans were killed in this genocide,” Osteen said as he wound up to the story’s larger moral. “It was very sad.”

Well, no. The Rwandan genocide was something far more than sad — it was a colossal failure of moral and political agency, going back to the German and Belgian colonial partition of the country that set up artificial power conflicts between the nation’s two main tribes. This horror also most certainly came about thanks to the wretched failures of the Clinton administration and other Western powers to arrest a well-documented string of massacres, even as senior U.N. officials such as Lt. Gen Romeo Dallaire, the leader of the agency’s Rwandan peacekeeping mission, implored them to.

For Osteen, of course, the story of this woman’s survival was a divine miracle. But if this one survivor was enjoying the loving favor of an omnipotent God, what are we to conclude that this same God thought of the more than 800,000 Rwandans murdered in the genocide? Was their faith wanting? Was God planning unparalleled new successes and joys for their surviving family members? Are these the people Osteen has in mind when he exhorts his listeners not to be victims, but victors?

It’s something of an obscenity even to frame such questions. Yet they are the inevitable outcome of a theology-free success gospel, pitched exclusively to tales of individual triumph. Osteen’s sermons all begin with a self-empowering chant from believers. “This is my Bible,” it goes in part; “I am what it says I am. I have what it says I have.” But there are legions of dead — now confined by definition, it’s true, in the hated past — who come bearing the testimony that the Bible is not actually about you.

What Sam Vaknin thinks about Jesus.

He replied to my last article about what he says about Jesus Christ–twice.   Once again he had to clarify a few things by providing links. One of the links provided talks about religion being a perfect way that narcissists can make themselves feel superior to nonbeliever (even though they must “submit” to a higher entity than themselves). They hold their nose and submit to a God or messiah because of the narcissistic thrill of self righteously being able to claim their piety makes them better than everyone else. I’ve seen this sort of thing going on in 12 step programs like AA too. In fact, my mother uses the AA program exactly like a religion and loves to use its slogans and dogma (and yes, it does have a dogma) to prove how righteous and sinless she is compared to non-teetolalers and everyone else, especially me.

I agree with what Vaknin writes in his post. I’ve seen way too many fundamentalist or evangelical Christians use their religion to intimidate (“you are going to hell”), make themselves feel special (“I know I’m going to heaven”), make threats (“unless you do X…you will go to hell”), not take responsibility for their actions (“God told me to do this” or “the devil made me do it”), and show a lack of empathy (“It’s God’s will”) and not acknowledge your concerns or questions (“It’s right here in the Bible or other holy text). This is especially prevalent in religious leaders, but is quite common in other people too.

god

Let me add that not all Christians are like this, and narcissistic behavior definitely applies to followers and leaders of other belief systems too, even atheism! (Self righteous, intolerant atheists are commoner than you would think).

Here is what he writes:

For the Love of God

“1 But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: 2 For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, 4 traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! 6 For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, 7 always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. 8 Now as Jan’nes and Jam’bres resisted Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, disapproved concerning the faith; 9 but they will progress no further, for their folly will be manifest to all, as theirs also was.”

(The Second Epistle of Paul the Apostle to Timothy 3:1-9)

God is everything the narcissist ever wants to be: omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, admired, much discussed, and awe inspiring. God is the narcissist’s wet dream, his ultimate grandiose fantasy. But God comes handy in other ways as well.

The narcissist alternately idealizes and devalues figures of authority.

In the idealization phase, he strives to emulate them, he admires them, imitate them (often ludicrously), and defends them. They cannot go wrong, or be wrong. The narcissist regards them as bigger than life, infallible, perfect, whole, and brilliant. But as the narcissist’s unrealistic and inflated expectations are inevitably frustrated, he begins to devalue his former idols.

Now they are “human” (to the narcissist, a derogatory term). They are small, fragile, error-prone, pusillanimous, mean, dumb, and mediocre. The narcissist goes through the same cycle in his relationship with God, the quintessential authority figure.

But often, even when disillusionment and iconoclastic despair have set in – the narcissist continues to pretend to love God and follow Him. The narcissist maintains this deception because his continued proximity to God confers on him authority. Priests, leaders of the congregation, preachers, evangelists, cultists, politicians, intellectuals – all derive authority from their allegedly privileged relationship with God.

Religious authority allows the narcissist to indulge his sadistic urges and to exercise his misogynism freely and openly. Such a narcissist is likely to taunt and torment his followers, hector and chastise them, humiliate and berate them, abuse them spiritually, or even sexually. The narcissist whose source of authority is religious is looking for obedient and unquestioning slaves upon whom to exercise his capricious and wicked mastery. The narcissist transforms even the most innocuous and pure religious sentiments into a cultish ritual and a virulent hierarchy. He preys on the gullible. His flock become his hostages.

Religious authority also secures the narcissist’s Narcissistic Supply. His coreligionists, members of his congregation, his parish, his constituency, his audience – are transformed into loyal and stable Sources of Narcissistic Supply. They obey his commands, heed his admonitions, follow his creed, admire his personality, applaud his personal traits, satisfy his needs (sometimes even his carnal desires), revere and idolize him.

Moreover, being a part of a “bigger thing” is very gratifying narcissistically. Being a particle of God, being immersed in His grandeur, experiencing His power and blessings first hand, communing with him – are all Sources of unending Narcissistic Supply. The narcissist becomes God by observing His commandments, following His instructions, loving Him, obeying Him, succumbing to Him, merging with Him, communicating with Him – or even by defying him (the bigger the narcissist’s enemy – the more grandiosely important the narcissist feels).

Like everything else in the narcissist’s life, he mutates God into a kind of inverted narcissist. God becomes his dominant Source of Supply. He forms a personal relationship with this overwhelming and overpowering entity – in order to overwhelm and overpower others. He becomes God vicariously, by the proxy of his relationship with Him. He idealizes God, then devalues Him, then abuses Him. This is the classic narcissistic pattern and even God himself cannot escape it.

 

Sam Vaknin thinks Jesus was a narcissist.

cultdefinition
A true cult’s agenda and operation is definitely psychopathic. (click to enlarge).

Sam Vaknin has a lot to say about religion and cults and how they relate to psychopathy.
On his website, he addresses the problems of religious cults and describes the way they are almost always run by malignant narcissists who use their usual bag of psychopathic tricks to brainwash people into converting and once converted, keeping them in thrall to the cult. The article is here.

Vaknin’s description of cults sounds exactly the way a cult such as Scientology is run (I dabbled in it back in the late 1970s for about 2 years but was fortunate enough to be able to escape before I was completely taken in). I have no doubt Scientology’s founder, L. Ron Hubbard, a hack science fiction writer, was a malignant narcissist (his official bio is full of lies and “accomplishments” that are complete fabrications). Scientology doctrine uses every trick in the psychopath’s book of coercion: brainwashing techniques disguised as “auditing” or “training routines (TR’s), threats to members who threaten to leave the cult (“fair game”), attempts to separate members from their non-Scientologist families and friends, exhorbitant and extortionist prices to move up the “bridge,”
insane doctrine passed off as “truth,” and definitely lots of paranoia and secrecy.

Lronhubbard
L. Ron Hubbard, malignant narcissist

Scientology is the enemy of any legitimate psychotherapy–psychology and psychiatry are held to be the utmost evil, members are required to use underhanded means to attack and even attempt to destroy the careers of professionals in those fields (I have a personal story about this I’ll describe at a later time), and of course Scientology has had numerous problems with the IRS and other government agencies. Anyone who criticizes Scientology is labeled a “Suppressive Person” and is either excommunicated from Scientology or punished by a form of shunning. Members who are influenced by someone who is against Scientology are labeled “Potential Trouble Sources” (PTS) and ordered to cut the “SP” out of their lives, even if it’s a spouse or another close family member.

There’s an excellent and fascinating website about the insane mindgames this “religion” plays and includes case histories of people whose lives were totally ruined by this dangerous and psychopathic cult. The “secrets” of the upper OT (operating thetan) levels used to be unobtainable to anyone who had not “gone clear” and had the money to pay for further “processing” to the OT levels, but those jealously guarded secrets are now available to anyone who has Internet access and is curious enough to Google them. Well, naturally I was curious and the “secrets” are indeed pretty crazy, obviously the ravings of L. Ron Hubbard’s disordered and paranoid mind.

It used to be said that the secrets could not be revealed to members at lower levels because such knowledge would shock them to the point of actually killing them. I remember reading about one ex-Scientologist who suggested that the real reason the upper level secrets were so carefully guarded was not to “protect” anyone from the shock of the “truth” but rather, because the things revealed at the upper levels were so insane that only someone who had spent thousands of dollars and been thoroughly brainwashed could possibly take them seriously (in fact, there are cases of those who did reach those levels and when the secrets were finally revealed to them, they left the Church because they felt their entire journey had been a colossal waste of time and money). Anyone who hadn’t made such a huge mental and financial investment and read about the OT revelations online would die alright: they would die of laughter. And yes, they are that crazy. I read the “revelations” of the OT levels with my jaw glued to the table in disbelief that any sane person would believe such a load of crap.

Vaknin should have used the example of Scientology, a perfect example of a “religion” with a psychopathic agenda and a malignant narcissist “god.” There are many other examples he could have used too–the Branch Davidians, Heaven’s Gate, the Unificiation Church (Sun Myung Moon’s cult), a few “New Age” cults, and many others.

But no, instead Vaknin attacks Christianity. He actually says Jesus Christ was a narcissist. I don’t know what Vaknin’s religious beliefs are, or even if he has any, and I certainly have my own issues with organized religion and fundamentalist Christianity in particular (the God of the Old Testament does come off as quite psychopathic at times), but I think Vaknin is missing the mark by describing Jesus Christ this way (or Christianity in general as a cult). He uses Bible quotes to “prove” that Jesus was a narcissist. Rather than try to paraphrase what he says, I’ll just post it here:

Jesus Christ, narcissist
http://samvak.tripod.com/journal79.html

Note:
Though most of the quotes in this essay are from the Gospel of Saint Matthew, I was careful to compare them with the texts of the other three canonical gospels. Where the gospels disagree, I avoided using the quote altogether.

Illegitimate and adopted children, especially of humble origins, often develop narcissistic defenses to fend off persistent feelings of inadequacy and inferiority. Admittedly, it is highly unlikely that Jesus was an illegitimate child. Adulteresses in ancient Judea were stoned to death. But, equally, there is little doubt that the circumstances of Jesus’s birth were shrouded in mystery. His mother, Mary, got herself pregnant but not by having sexual intercourse with her lawfully-wedded husband, Joseph.

Early on, Jesus developed magical thinking, compensatory grandiose delusions, and fantasies of omnipotence and omniscience. A firstborn, he was much pampered by his doting mother. He was a prodigy, a Wunderkind: highly intelligent and inquisitive and more comfortable in the company of adults than with his peers.

When he was a mere 12 years old:

“(T)hey found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions.” (Luke 2:46)

Even at this tender age, he showed a marked lack of empathy and a full-fledged case of pathological grandiosity:

“His mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing. And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?” (“My Father” being God – SV). (Luke 2:48-49)

Gurus at the center of emergent cults are inevitably narcissistic, if not outright narcissists. The self-imputation of superiority, epiphanic knowledge, and infallibility and the assumption that others need and crave the guru’s message are at the heart of an elaborate construct which often borders on the psychotic:

“… (T)he people were astonished at his doctrine: For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.” (Matthew 7:28-29)

Referring to his 12 disciples, Jesus made clear that: “The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord.” (Matthew 10:24)

“He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.” (Matthew 10:37-39)

Here is how Jesus, the lowly, unmarried, and itinerant son of a carpenter – an abysmal failure by the standards of his society – viewed himself:

“When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats … And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.” (Matthew 25:31-32 and 25:46)

“Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matthew 26:53)

Contrary to his much-cultivated image, Jesus, like the vast majority of cult leaders, lacked empathy and was a heartless and irresponsible manipulator whose magical thinking ruined the lives of many. He instructed his followers to commit acts that must have had harshly adverse impacts on their hitherto nearest and dearest. Jesus monopolized the lives of his disciples to the exclusion of all else and all others:

“For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.” (Matthew 10:35-36)

“Then one said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee. But he answered and said unto him that told him, Who is my mother? and who are my brethren? And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren!” (Matthew 12:47-48)

“And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. And they straightway left their nets, and followed him. And going on from thence, he saw other two brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and he called them. And they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed him.” (Matthew 4:18-22)
Consider the disastrous effects their actions had had on their fathers and their families, now left to starve. To Jesus, evidently, these were irrelevant considerations.

Jesus healed only those who visibly, volubly, clearly, publicly and repeatedly worshipped him. In other words, he extended his gift only to his sources of narcissistic supply. There are numerous instances in the four canonical gospels where Jesus actually bargains with the afflicted and demands – sometimes in anger – their unconditional adoration. He is happiest when acknowledged and affirmed as Christ, the Son of Man (son of God). Those who do not recognize his splendid grandeur, unbounded might, and implied divinity are “dogs” and “swine” (Matthew 7:6)

His much-touted love of the poor was not a match for his malignant self-love. When his disciples upbraided a woman for anointing Jesus with expensive ointment because the money could have been better used to help the poor, the great humanist, Jesus, had this to say:

“Why trouble ye the woman? for she hath wrought a good work upon me. For ye have the poor always with you; but me ye have not always.” (Matthew 26:10-11)

The principles espoused by Jesus were malleable and easily bent. He professed to minister only to the Hebrews (Sons of Israel) and steadfastly refused to heal the Gentiles whom he called “dogs”. When a woman of Canaan beseeched him to cast the devil out of her daughter (“Have mercy on me!”), he retorted, shockingly:

“I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel … It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs.” (Matthew 15:24-26)

But he soon forgot and retracted this lofty “principle” when she adulated him:

“Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.” (Matthew 15:28)

Similarly, he cured the servant of a Roman centurion after his master catered to Jesus’s by-now rampant megalomania:

“When Jesus heard it, he marvelled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. And Jesus said unto the centurion, Go thy way; and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee. And his servant was healed in the selfsame hour.” (Matthew 8:10 and 8:13)

Jesus’s initial false modesty soon gave way to bragging and outlandish, often confabulatory claims.

Whenever he affected a miracle – such as restoring eyesight to the blind, cleansing lepers, reviving the crippled, and raising the ostensibly dead – Jesus beseeched them to keep mum about the events. One of many examples:

“And their eyes were opened; and Jesus straitly charged them, saying, See that no man know it.” (Matthew 9:30)

But Jesus was not averse to blatant self-promotion when his false modesty failed to elicit narcissistic supply:

“Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see: The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them.” (Matthew 11:2)

“I say unto you, That in this place is one greater than the temple … For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day … behold, a greater than (the prophet) Jonas is here … behold, a greater than (King) Solomon is here.” (Matthew 12)

As a true narcissist, Jesus reprimanded others for his own brand of behavior. This psychological defense mechanism is called “projection”.

This is how he described the Pharisees, the scribes, and the Sadducees (and, inadvertently, himself and his own conduct):

“(T)hey say, and do not. For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi.” (Matthew 23:1-6)
Narcissists are disruptive, counter-dependent, combative, and resent authority (rebellious and contumacious). They feel that they are above the law, or, rather, that they are a law unto themselves. They hold themselves to be immune to the consequences of their actions:

“Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.” (Matthew 10:34)

“And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves, And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.” (Matthew 21:12-13)

Narcissists are ill-disposed towards disagreement and criticism. They react to the slightest hint of either with narcissistic rage and fury that knows no bounds and no mercy:

“And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee.” (Matthew 11:23-24)

“He that is not with me is against me” (Matthew 12:30)

“For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.” (Matthew 23:39)

Narcissists react particularly badly when their concocted personal myth, their False Self, is directly and effectively challenged and they are consequently discredited and humiliated in public:

“And when he was come into his own country, he taught them in their synagogue, insomuch that they were astonished, and said, Whence hath this man this wisdom, and these mighty works? Is not this the carpenter’s son? is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas? And his sisters, are they not all with us? Whence then hath this man all these things? And they were offended in him. But Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country, and in his own house. And he did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief.” (Matthew 13:54-58)

Ultimately, the narcissist pays the price for years of ill-treating others and sucking their energies dry with constant demands for attention, adulation, and affirmation. People get tired of the overbearing and overweening presence of the narcissist in their lives, of his disruptive and destabilizing influence, and of the pernicious effects he has on their nearest, dearest, and communities. Invariably, they seek to banish him and extricate themselves from his cult. The authorities usually are forced to intervene and lock the narcissist up or, worse, crucify him.

Even his closest followers, supporters, and disciples give up on the narcissist:

“Then all the disciples forsook him, and fled.” (Matthew 26:56)

“Then did they spit in his face, and buffeted him; and others smote him with the palms of their hands, Saying, Prophesy unto us, thou Christ, Who is he that smote thee?” (Matthew 26:67-68)

“Peter remembered the word of Jesus, which said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.” (Peter, indeed, denying knowing Jesus thrice – SV) (Matthew 26:75)

And the fickle “multitude” (the common folk), who were supposed to be the mainstay of Jesus’s power and popularity, betrayed him gleefully and with a clear sense of relief and good riddance:

“Whether of the twain will ye that I release unto you? They said, Barabbas … They all say unto him, Let him be crucified … they cried out the more, saying, Let him be crucified … Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children … And they that passed by reviled him, wagging their heads, And saying, Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself. If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross. Likewise also the chief priests mocking him, with the scribes and elders, said, He saved others; himself he cannot save. The thieves also, which were crucified with him, cast the same in his teeth.” (Matthew 27)

Jesus_with_a_child
Jesus doesn’t look like a narcissist to me.

Vaknin is using the words and deeds described in the Gospels to spin Jesus into a malignant narcissist. I don’t buy it. I have been attending RCIA classes (the classes one takes to become Catholic), and am still on the fence as to whether Jesus was actually the Son of God or just a very good man and prophet, but have lately been leaning more toward him being divine.

If Jesus was actually who he said he was–the Son of God–then he was being truthful and not narcissistic or grandiose in any manner. Jesus was compassionate and empathetic toward the unfortunate and the poor and healed the sick and disabled, and while he does appear to have had a temper, it was a righteous anger toward those who refused to believe who He was. He didn’t reject or disrespect his mother either. He had a great love for Mary as his earthly mother, but if Jesus was the son of God, then God’s desires would naturally have to come first.

In Vaknin’s defense, if he doesn’t believe Jesus was divine (and many people don’t), then I suppose it could be argued Jesus acted in narcissistic and grandiose ways (it could actually more easily be argued he was a paranoid schizophrenic–insisting he was God Himself when he really wasn’t), but I still wouldn’t call him a narcissist. Vaknin is probably not a Christian due to his nationality (he’s from Israel and his mother was Turkish) so it’s understandable that he wouldn’t believe Jesus was the Son of God, but to make such a sweeping accusation against a religious entity whose words have changed the lives of many millions of people for the better is pretty narcissistic on Vaknin’s part (which of course is no surprise).

Some of the more extreme evangelistic and fundamentalist Christian churches (especially those that believe in such unpleasant and elitist doctrines as predestination–a Calvinistic belief that certain “chosen” people have been predestined for heaven even before they were born, making the concept of “free will” and works null and void) are not too far removed from cults and they commonly have psychopathic leaders and use cult-like brainwashing tactics. There are also unfortunately many religious leaders of mainstream churches who are very narcissistic and even psychopathic, but this doesn’t mean Christianity itself is a cult of narcissism or that Jesus was a narcissist.

I still defend most of Vaknin’s writings from his critics, given that as a narcissist who is honest about himself, he is more than qualified to call himself an expert on the disorder and write as much as he wants to about it. Whether intentional or not, he has helped a great number of sufferers and victims of psychopathy. But in this particular discussion about cults, using Christianity as an example of a cult and Jesus as a malignant narcissist not only misses the mark, but to many people would be considered blasphemous. In spite of my own misgivings about Christian doctrine, I just couldn’t let this pass.

We All Need a “Mother”

This article is right in keeping with my own attendance at RCIA (the classes one takes to become Catholic) and what I am learning. As the child of a malignant narcissist mother, Mary is about as unlike my mother as it’s possible to be. I need a ever merciful Mary in my life! I’m also finding that, rather than the dogmatic, intolerant, bloated religion Catholicism has a reputation of being, that’s it’s actually one of the most loving and tolerant of all Christian religions–and probably the most authentic (being the oldest and apostolic church Jesus actually founded).

I’m also taken with this writer’s affinity for Buddhism, which I’ve dabbled in myself. Buddhism, rather than being a religion, is more of a philosophy. You can believe in one God or not. I don’t think reincarnation and karma are reconcilable with Catholicism (or any other form of Christianity), but these beliefs have a lot going for them and there are a lot of good arguments in their favor. I’m reblogging this article because it puts a lot of the thoughts I’ve been having into words much better than I can.

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Mary, the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Blessed Virgin

Last night, I attended my RCIA class (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults).  If you have a quarrel with religion or spirituality (my preferred word) or Christianity, don’t be deterred.  I have been what might be called apostate (religious, not political) most of my life:

a·pos·tate
əˈpäsˌtāt,-tit/
noun
noun: apostate; plural noun: apostates
  1. 1.
    a person who renounces a religious or political belief or principle.
    synonyms: dissenter, defector, deserter, traitor, backslider, turncoat; More
    archaic heretic;
    rare recusant, recreant, tergiversator
    “after 50 years as an apostate, he returned to the faith”
    antonyms: follower
adjective
adjective: apostate
  1. 1.
    abandoning a religious or political belief or principle.

It’s very hard to grow up in a cultural milieu that is Christian fundamentalist identifying as a lesbian and then later transitioning from female to male.  Being gay…

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