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What made you a skeptic? (or, how I started a cult)

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posted on Feb, 25 2005 @ 12:38 PM
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This thread's primary purpose is for discussion of what made some of us so skeptical, demanding proof or personal experience rather than simply accepting what others tell us is true. Its secondary purpose is to show just how easily humanity is fooled into believing anything one wishes tell them. Though this is the Religion thread (because of the nature of my own story), feel free to post your story about why you are skeptical of anything from Government Conspiracies to Alien Contact, etc...

Roughly a decade ago, when I was in college, there was an organization known as the Pagan Student Alliance, or PSA. At the time, I already had a rather skeptical view of mainstream religion, due to various questions that mainstream religion could not succesfully answer. I also had a problem with Wicca, which I'd been studying for about six years, because it too had limitations for my questions. And so I joined the PSA, hoping to find exposure to other religions and beliefs, as well as philosophical and metaphysical arguement and discussion to temper them with.

Instead I found a bunch of angst-filled teens and delusional middle-aged adults so desperate to believe in anything that I decided, in the cold callousness of youth, to conduct an experiment. As a disclaimer, this is not something I am proud of, but it is something I have learned from.

As with any group, the PSA had its power struggles. The official elected President of the PSA, we'll call her Lisa, was at heart a good person, with a good head on her shoulders. She was more of a salad-bar variety pagan, and even some wisdom to match her years, but very few leadership skills. On the flip side there was one whom we will call Diane, who held no office in the PSA, had excellent charisma and leadership, but set off my bull--- detectors like a house on fire. Both were well past 40 and were the only two members past 25.

I'll be frank, I didn't like Diane. She was a disruptive diva who detracted from the few decent discussions we had, with wild claims of psychic attacks, spirit visitations, crystal entities, and spellslinging. Lisa would be calmly trying to teach some hitherto unknown belief from another culture, and suddenly Diane would cry out "The spirits speak!" and then drop her voice real low and spout some mystical sounding nonsense that sounded very rehearsed. However, a good three-quarters of the rest of the PSA thought she walked on water, and was the best guru, most connected with every aspect of the metaphysical, and so forth, and the whole 'class' would end in people swarming Diane to find out more.

There were a few of us who began to get really irritated with it. The real bugger came when I was to present to the PSA how to throw bones, using Scita, Cohado, Imbay, and Thola, on a field of three elements. I was halfway through, when Diane suddenly stood up and announced there was psychic vampire nearby, and she had to go combat it. At which point, the vast majority of the class got up and went with her to watch her in action, leaving five people besides myself to wonder what the hell just happened. Even Lisa had left, though dejectedly.

Like any good student with a disrupted class, we went to the local coffee house for hot cuppas and health sticks, and introduced ourselves. The other five people, we'll call them Jeff, Tara, Gabe, Jean, and Amy, were disgusted with Diane's antics, and wanted to actually learn something, instead of watching everyone act like a bunch of Charismatic Church-goers. We got to talking and I realized that, while I was certainly no expert in the field, apparently I'd done a lot more reading on various religions and practices than they had. So I offered to teach them what I knew, outside of the PSA, with the understanding that I was not by any means I master of anything, I just had stuff to share. They could take it or leave it.

So we met, every other night, and I'd tell them what history I knew, or could find, of various religions, or religious rituals. It was enjoyable, and for everything I taught, I got back from them five different ideas in response, which I was then able to digest and think about. We were effectively, our own private world religion club, what I'd envisioned the PSA to be, before I actually joined. The PSA itself, however, fared much much worse.

Having become good friends by now, we all sat together during PSA meetings, watching it degrade to a worse and worse state. Though we never referred to ourselves as such at first, people started calling us a coven. (shrug) Okay, fine, we were a coven. It was more an indulgence to everyone else to get them to stop pestering us about it. The last straw came when Diane stood up, mid-meeting, and announced that the spirits needed her to lead us, that we were weak, and a war between the O.T.O. (Ordo Templi Orientis) and the PSA would soon begin. It was a very passionate speech, filling the room with wide eyes from her majority, whom all agreed.

Lisa smiled before shaking her head and saying to the rest "Who am I to argue with The Spirits?" and as she left the podium, and Diane took it, my so-called-coven and I watching in abject revulsion. This was the end of any redeeming quality to the PSA. Even though Diane's followers were all a bunch of desperate sheep, most of them were still good people at heart, and someone needed to wake them up before Diane caused them more harm than could be fixed without some serious therapy.

I'm sad to say those motives were only in retrospect, and while I believe it to be the truth now, at the time it was all about bringing Diane down, in the hardest way possible--by her own hands, in public, and utterly humiliated. Only then would her followers think of her as anything other than a martyr.

And thus began the experiment that is probably my greatest shame, and widest eye-opener about the human mind.

After observing Diane in the PSA occasionally outside of meetings, she was the typical power-hungry manipulator. If anything drew interest away from her, she would find a way to involve her self in it and make herself the center of it. She was extremely good at it, certainly better than myself or anyone else I've ever known. I decided to use this trait of hers to bring her down in front of her followers.

First, to establish some credibility. However, I also couldn't risk someone from my own group ruining the experiment. Their reactions had to be utterly genuine. So they became a part of it, unwittingly. In sight of what had happened to the PSA, it was easy to convince our so-called-coven of six to decide upon a catchy name, "Fire and Ice" (imagine my amusement some years later and finding there was a liquor by this name as well). From there it was only a hop, skip, and a jump towards being an "exclusive" coven that didn't share our knowledge or secrets with anyone outside the coven.

So it was that people in the PSA became interested in what the big deal was, and wanted to find out what it was that we knew. Of course, we needed something "to know" and additionally, a patron diety would be helpful. So I picked a name from a book, and then managed to convince the coven that I was being contacted by a good diety who had been long forgotten. They bought it hook, line, and sinker, and soon we had a Coven, a Catchy Name, and a Cause... and his name was Chynthliss (bonus points if you recognize the name yet).

So anyway, it wasn't long before we had new people wanting to join, and our informal little group of theologians became something of an actual coven, complete with our own little rituals, prayers, spells, etc, all centered around Chynthliss. This was quite a gamble. If anyone had recognized the name, it would have brought the whole thing to a screeching halt, and I'd have ended up the pariah of my own experiment.

The coven grew

when we were close to 15 strong, Diane finally took a keen interest in the goings on. Apparently some of the new members were still informing her about what went on in our group (as I'd hoped), and one day, in the middle of another one of the mockeries that made up a PSA meeting, she announced that she was being spoken to by someone named Chynthliss. He was calling to her and she needed to find him. Of course this just astounded everyone, and since Fire and Ice now had her own followers as the majority, she was granted immediate membership to the coven.

My control would very soon disappear, and I knew this. Thus I left one last legacy: Dae'enneth, who was a female spirit that Chynthliss wished to know more about. As predicted, within two more meetings, Diane became the official High Priestess of Chynthliss, and was so convincing in her role that even my original five friends had gone over to her side. I let it continue a bit more, sat back and watched; at this point it was better than anything on cable.

Within a few weeks, Chynthliss had become a campus-wide cult. PSA membership had shot up to well over a hundred, and was no longer welcoming anyone but members of Fire and Ice, the followers of Chynthliss, and his chosen mate, Dae'enneth. There was no longer room for everyone to attend the now daily rituals, so most of them started being held outside, on the campus mall.

Then the insane happened.

Diane announced that she was visited by Chynthliss in a vision, and that she was to give birth to the Goddess Dae'enneth. Oh yes. She would be the mother of a Goddess. I almost stopped it at this point, but figured I'd let her dig her own grave a few miles deeper. I didn't even bother to attend the elaborate ritual where people would watch her "give birth" to Dae'enneth, but instead visited a 7-11 where I photocopied a few pages of a book, and then the computer lab to get some printouts from a newsgroup I was on, and then back to the copier to make many, many copies.

The next day's PSA (aka The Fire and Ice club) meeting looked like something out of the movie "The Wave". Those who didn't salute her viewed her with utter adoration. I began to have second thoughts; these people were hungry to believe, and there seemed to be just enough madness in the room that I may have let it go way past the point of no return.
Nevertheless, I stood up, mid-meeting, and announce that I had received a vision from Chynthliss, and had to share it with the group.

Diane didn't like being upstaged, but as I was still the founding member of the coven, and the original prophet of their god, she grudgingly allowed me to speak. Whereupon I began handing out stacks of stapled pages together, asked everyone to take one and pass it on.

Within the pages were several passages from a Mercedes Lacky novell called "Chrome Circle". Highlighted on those pages was the name "Chinthliss" (I'd changed the spelling slightly, because back then, pagans only took you seriously if you replaced "i's" with "y's"). Also included was page after page of posts by a Dae'enneth from the newsgroup alt.fan.dragons, someone with whom I often traded quips with on that funny little net-niche. And last was an apology to everyone, for having to do this to them.

As Diane read the passages, the blood drained from her face, and was then quickly replaced as she became too furious to get a coherent sentance out. I explained to a shocked assemblage why I did the whole thing, and how they should really learn to think for themselves from now on, and stop letting hucksters with lots of charisma tell them what to believe.

I'm not sure what I expected. Maybe I expected a slowly building applause, like then end of an old 80's movie. Maybe I expected them to cry. Maybe I expected them to kill me, hide the fact that this ever happened, and become a movement so big that no one could stop it. At that point, I really don't know what I thought would happen other than Diane being utterly, permanently, discredited.

And the sad thing is, I'll never really know what actually happened afterward.

I was asked to leave, very quietly, from a familiar face in the back. Lisa. She stood, walked me to the door, gently, but firmly, and quickly, and closed it behind me. The last look she gave me was a wink, followed by my not being welcome back to the PSA again.

It took awhile to get the details, and even then, they are sketchy. It was at least a month before any of my five friends would speak to me again, and at least another month still of explaining and re-explaining why it had been neccesary to leave them out of the loop, and why I had let it go on for so long. I think that they never actually forgave me, but rather between the parties, coffee shops, classes, and various intoxicants that college life offered, the incident was forgotten.

Some said Diane tried a lame attempt at saying that a God created from scratch was just as valid, and that a few of her most die-hards followed her in secret until they graduated and got a life. Some said that Diane moved away, to another city. Some say she committed suicide. I'll honestly never know. The only thing I know for sure is that the PSA split up for good that night, the worship of Chynthliss and Dae'enneth dropped to nil, and none of us ever saw Diane again.

Reading this story it may have come across that I was proud of my accomplishment. In truth, it probably hurt me most of all. I'd betrayed my closest college friends, and scarred them for life whenever it came to believing in anything at that point. They had believed, and their faith in Chynthliss and Dae'enneth and myself had been no less than that of a hard core Christian in the midst of a Pentacostal Church. And I'd not only crushed that faith, made a complete mockery of it, but had used them, like tools, for petty revenge.

Yet I learned something from this. I learned that not only is evidence and proof not neccesary for someone to believe with all their faith, but that it is just as easy as pie, so long as you know how to manipulate and sound like you know what you're talking about. This is why I will never be swayed in an arguement by words such as "I know it to be true" or "I saw them with my own eyes" or any other such eye witness testimony. I know now, firsthand, that most people are sheep, so desperate to believe in anything, or to be a part of something special, that they will feast upon whatever tripe you set before them.

And that is why I am a skeptic.




posted on Feb, 25 2005 @ 01:04 PM
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So what you're saying is:

Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.-Buddha



posted on Feb, 25 2005 @ 01:10 PM
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Originally posted by dnero6911
So what you're saying is:

Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.-Buddha


Yes, and with a healthy spoonful of proof as well.


It makes me wonder, though, how many religions out there got started the same way? One can only shudder and wonder.



posted on Feb, 25 2005 @ 02:00 PM
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If I were you I wouldn't feel so bad about doing that... even though there could have been a better way of proving your point perhaps without the chance of hurting anyone, although what you've done is needed all over the world...

But just because your experiment worked doesn't discredit all scriptures.. remember that some scriptures have helped us make medical advances and control diseases... theres a point where you have to give credit where credit is due... symbology is strong. I very much agree religeon is looked at in a wrong light.. its very much confused...



posted on Feb, 25 2005 @ 02:05 PM
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okay if we are not supposed to believe anything but our own stuff would your telling us that mean we should think the same about this thread , why make something look hypocritical ,

But hey I like your post I just think there is a contradiction , mostly people usually dont go this detailed and I like that to you obviously put some to alot of thought into this and I give you props for the work done.



posted on Feb, 25 2005 @ 02:29 PM
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Originally posted by dnero6911
But just because your experiment worked doesn't discredit all scriptures.. remember that some scriptures have helped us make medical advances and control diseases... theres a point where you have to give credit where credit is due... symbology is strong. I very much agree religeon is looked at in a wrong light.. its very much confused...


Oh, I couldn't agree more. My previous statement was more of conjecture than accusation against religions. The problems I've had with any religion have always come down to the person doing the leading at the time. Except perhaps "Old Testy" (the god of the Old Testament) who was kind of a jerk even without human intervention, according to the Bible. But yes I gotta hand it to the Hebrew people for the Kashrut. It kept a lot of them alive in a time of dangerous food.


Originally posted by drbryankkruta
okay if we are not supposed to believe anything but our own stuff would your telling us that mean we should think the same about this thread , why make something look hypocritical


(grins) That is exactly the way you should be thinking. Doubt everything. Don't take my word for it, and never base a belief system off of it. The single best bit of advice I ever received was "Don't choose your beliefs based off your religion, but rather choose your religion based off your beliefs."


Originally posted by drbryankkruta
But hey I like your post I just think there is a contradiction , mostly people usually dont go this detailed and I like that to you obviously put some to alot of thought into this and I give you props for the work done.


Ah, thank you, though it's still something I feel guilty about. I suppose my telling the story is as much a warning to others as it is a sort of confession. The story is absolute truth, if anything I've held back, but felt the detail was neccesary to show the easy progression of going from otherwise ordinary people to becoming deranged followers of a false deity.

There's a movie that I saw once, called "The Wave" that has a similar theme to it. I highly recommend it for anyone on this board, as it too serves as a warning against believing in what other people tell you to believe.

Always, always decide for yourself what you believe -first-. Then find someone who shares similar beliefs. You may never find a congregation, but God-willing, you might just find peace of mind.



posted on Feb, 25 2005 @ 02:38 PM
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Interesting story. I'm a skeptic I guess due to the standard cognitive consistency factor. Basically, if something doesn't make sense as viewed through my filter, I'm going to reject it. Take for example one of the posts on this message board awhile back that suggested Moses wandered around the desert riding a triceratops - doesn't really make sense to me, but hey - whatever. As far as religion goes, my best argument for it is Pascal's Wager - reading it tends to make atheists think about their views. Definately read if you haven't.



posted on Feb, 25 2005 @ 02:40 PM
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okay fair enough little enlightenment for you ,,,,,,my way of worship is just what you describe I worship God directly and not with any outside influence and the fact I am a Chaplain was so I could offer support to those who asked for it before dying and or after dying to give last rights for the familys request it I even turned down a teaching job for the very reasons you suggest I dont want people to go with something cause I said it was so because they should believe God not me , and the only other duty I perform is crisis counceling with neither imposes beliefs or grieving suggestions but is more of Im there for you your not alone.



as for the thanks on the compliment it was a pleasure I found the effort you put out worth the praise I gave. I just hope you find the time and need to continue with those things you omitted some day .


CHEERS HERES YOU CIGAR and 1939 vintage woodsy taste and semi dry , only the best for those who actually give it effort.

[edit on 25/2/2005 by drbryankkruta]



posted on Feb, 25 2005 @ 03:16 PM
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A lot of people who refer to themselves as 'skeptics' are deists of one persuasion or another.

I think most of these people (and, of course, I can only speak for myself here) rationalize their behavior as being divided into two sectors:

(1) That belief system where they freely admit that their beliefs are based on faith; and

(2) The rest of their belief-system, which they (or, ranter, I) require the usual string of skeptic-approved tools in order to accept (repeatable evidence, Occam's Razor, etc.).

Although I lack both the expertise or objectivity to discuss theological matters, I can say that some of the other "religions" I see here, such as "chem-trails", Greys, Atlantis, etc. are truly seen by their believers as fact, even though they fail the basic reasons for rational acceptance.

So why are they believed?

My guess is that the bulk of True Believers have a need to believe stuff like that. In some cases, it may be that these folks are unsuccessful in their life endeavors, find themselves in a dead-end career and/or relationship(s), and are looking for something to bring meaning to their lives.

For those people what better defense could there be than to place themselves, not amont the hoi polloi, but in that "special group" of poeople who have Finally Figured Out The Way Things Really Are; in other words, a self-constructed elite?

Hey, it takes a superior (smarter, more sensitive, or however they choose to define "superior") person to see the Truth that somehow explains why they have failed in so many of their endeavors. And what better way to do so than to come up with a conspiracy -- something over which they have no control and can thus abdicate responsibility?

And it is hard indeed to debate these people using the "rules" of science; most of these True Believers, like their Muslim or Creationist Christian counterparts, believe because they feel, not think.

Ironically, it is these same folks who, although they consider themselves as among the few Truly Enlightened, are also the very ones who place logic aside and whip out their wallet whenever a scamster promugating their beliefs tries to hawk his belief-book or vision-video.



posted on Feb, 25 2005 @ 03:21 PM
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Theres a good reason why the God of the old testament is a bit fishy...

if you want to see what I think about it.. check out my replies to this post

www.abovetopsecret.com...



posted on Feb, 25 2005 @ 03:53 PM
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You know what I find funny..
I look at it like this ..

You claim "How I started a cult" and you have a thread on it..
Jesus did the same thing... but he didn't write a thread on it.. he had other people write about it.. I just find it funny.. do you see any relation ? .. lol



posted on Feb, 25 2005 @ 04:31 PM
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Chynthliss Is Coming

thelibra, kudos for an excellent story. Food for thought.

Much to ponder, and much to learn from the account.

Still, I am skeptical...



Edit: I like the story enough that I dropped a link to it into my .sig:

Chynthliss Is Coming

"Thus spake the Lord, and the Lord spake thus: 'For the time shall be soon, and soon shall be the time.' So it was written, and it was written so." -- Redundant Prophecies of the Prophet Of Redundancy


[edit on 2/25/2005 by Majic]



posted on Feb, 25 2005 @ 04:39 PM
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Most skeptics don't even begin to realize how many things they take on good faith. We believe that the historical past existed as it did without experiencing it. We believe that places we have never been to exist. We believe that people and animals we have never met exist even though we have never met them. The list goes on forever.



posted on Feb, 25 2005 @ 05:53 PM
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Originally posted by Jonna
Most skeptics don't even begin to realize how many things they take on good faith. We believe that the historical past existed as it did without experiencing it. We believe that places we have never been to exist. We believe that people and animals we have never met exist even though we have never met them. The list goes on forever.


You make a very good point, Jonna.........at the height of my paranoia, I entertained the notion that the environment I directly experienced was real.........Wag the Dog had a decent effect on me. Needless to say, I'm abit more open to obvious assumptions now that I've traveled by plane to the other side of the U.S.

However, I still consider the possibility that my favorite actress may just be a computer generated image since I have only seen her on screen........but that might just be a rationalization



posted on Apr, 28 2005 @ 07:46 PM
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Originally posted by AlphaHumana
Take for example one of the posts on this message board awhile back that suggested Moses wandered around the desert riding a triceratops - doesn't really make sense to me, but hey - whatever.


LMMFAO!!


Damn, that was funny! That was even funnier than the Libra's story, though I don't think he meant it to be funny. Thanks, Alpha, that was the best laugh I've had all week!


I guess I should still visit this place, it's entertaining at times. I stopped coming here for a while for various reasons, but damn it, I'm always up for a good laugh!

Unfortunately, I have nothing meaningful to add to this thread. Posting serious thoughts is no longer my M.O.



posted on Apr, 29 2005 @ 03:09 PM
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I became a skeptic after being a "Trooo Beeelieeevur" after encountering the "Chariots of the Gods." I really bought into that, in spite of the fact that something seemed vaguely wrong. THEN I read the book, "Crash Go The Chariots" which ripped Velikovsky apart. I checked the facts in both and came to the conclusion that I was a bit too naive and needed to know more about science and history.

And then I read Sagan's "Demon Haunted World."

...although in a way, I had been set up for it by reading the Bible (cover to cover) several times as a child. I found the passages that were at odds with what I was being taught (www.skepticsannotatedbible.com hit a lot of what I saw, even as a kid) and that made it easier to accept science instead of faith.



posted on Apr, 29 2005 @ 09:55 PM
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You have voted thelibra for the Way Above Top Secret award. You have one more vote left for this month.



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