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Our Lord Jesus Christ loves you.
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nChrist
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« Reply #30 on: July 26, 2005, 01:34:20 AM »

Thank you Brother. I think it is very important for people to read the truth about these many different cults that claim to be Christian that have no clue what a Christian really is. These many cults trick people into believeing that they are the true followers of Jesus Christ when in fact they deny Him as very God and in some cases even deny him as their Saviour.



Pastor Roger,

Denying that Jesus Christ is God is still the quickest and easiest ways to identify a cult. Here's what hurts me the most about this - THE LOST DON'T KNOW THIS, AND THEY STAY DOOMED TO THE CURSE OF SIN AND DEATH. It's enough to make every Christian cry, especially when you read or hear what many of these cults teach about Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour.

They honestly don't know or understand that to deny Jesus Christ as God is blasphemy. The Holy Bible tells a beautiful and eternal truth about Jesus Christ. HE is the CREATOR, very GOD, the Alpha and Omega, the Prince of Peace, the Light of the World, the LORD OF HOSTS, the KING OF KINGS, and our Lord and Saviour for eternity. HE is in fact THE GREAT I AM of eternity past. As for me, HE is my ALL IN ALL, the center and LORD over my life. This fact gives me great peace and joy, especially knowing that no power in the universe can pluck me from HIS MIGHTY HANDS!

Now, I feel like singing again:

"Thank you LORD for saving my soul,
Thank you LORD for making me whole."

Love In Christ,
Tom

John 8:18-19 ASV  I am he that beareth witness of myself, and the Father that sent me beareth witness of me.  They said therefore unto him, Where is thy Father? Jesus answered, Ye know neither me, nor my Father: if ye knew me, ye would know my Father also.
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« Reply #31 on: August 01, 2006, 01:17:02 AM »

Concerned Christians" Cult - Originally of Denver CO

Concerned Christians is a group of at least 78 adults and children, led by Monte Kim Miller, (b. 1954). (Some sources incorrectly call him Kim Monte Miller).  Until recently he had been a marketing executive of Proctor & Gamble. Ironically, Miller was an anti-cult activist in the 1980's. He formed Concerned Christians in the 1980's to fight the New Age movement, and what he regarded as the anti-Christian bias of the media. His newsletter, "Report from Concerned Christians" attacked feminist spirituality, the 1987 Harmonic Convergence, New Age trends in Evangelical Christianity, alternative medicine, the Coalition on Revival, Southern Baptists, Assemblies of God, the Roman Catholic Church, the World-Faith movement, and many other Christian denominations and organizations.

He produced a radio program "Our Foundation" for a during part of 1996. In 1996-JUN, he announced that he speaks for God. Some followers were disillusioned by this and left; most remained in the group. He predicted that an earthquake would wipe Denver, CO off the map on 1998-OCT-10. This prophecy proved to be false. His followers believe that Miller is the one of the two witnesses mentioned in the Book of Revelation, chapter 11. He predicted his own death, and that of his co-prophet, in 1999-DEC in Jerusalem. He expected to be resurrected three days later. This prophecy also failed. He taught that his group are the only true Christians; salvation can only be earned by repenting and following him. 6 Presumably the remaining 2 billion Christians and 4 billion non-Christians in the world will all go to Hell.

The Denver apocalypse didn't happen. However, about 78 of the group sold some of their possessions, emptied out their homes, and left Denver near the end of 1998-SEP. (Estimates range from fewer than 60 to up to 80). At least some relocated to Jerusalem. Many Christians believe that when Jesus returns, he will descend from the sky and make landfall on the Mount of Olives, near Jerusalem. 1

On 1999-JAN-3, Israeli police raided two suburban-style homes in the Mevasseret Zion suburb, in the western outskirts of Jerusalem. They detained eight adults and six children who belonged to the Concerned Christians. They had been living quietly, financing themselves on their savings and donations from the U.S.  Brigadier General Elihu Ben-Onn, an Israeli police spokesperson alleged that the cult members planned to "carry out violent and extreme acts in the streets of Jerusalem at the end of 1999." 2 This would begin "a process that would bring about the Second Coming of Jesus." 4 If this is true, then their technique appears to be to incite a religious war that would expand into the War of Armageddon as prophesied in the book of Revelation of the Christian Scriptures. Most conservative Christians believe that Jesus would return at this time. The Israeli police allege that the group planned a deadly shoot-out with police near the Church of the Holy Sepulcher where some Christians believe the tomb of Jesus is situated. No evidence has been made public to support these allegations. No firearms were found at either of the group's residences. Eleven of the group were deported; the 3 other members were temporarily arrested on suspicion  of being involved in a conspiracy to violate a law which protects holy places. The three told their lawyer that they didn't want to return home because they feared that the U.S. would be destroyed soon.  One of the detainees. John Bayles, denied any evil intent on the part of his group: "I'm not here to hurt anybody. I don't feel I pose a threat  of physical harm to anyone. I don't feel I have committed any conspiracy.'' 3

On 1999-JAN-4, a reporter found a taped message and associated photocopied document on the doorstep of one of the then-abandoned homes that had been rented by the Concerned Christians. It was labeled "Series # 18, Tape # 30" indicating that it was apparently one of a large group of such messages. The voice on the tape has not been identified. It linked Presidents Clinton and Coolidge with mass murderer Charles Manson. It linked such events as hurricane Andrew, the Oslo peace accords, and Nagasaki. The speaker predicted that the United States, the "dragon kingdom" would receive "double the judgment" that Japan experienced at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This tape may be totally unrelated to the Concerned Christians group.

All 14 arrived back in Denver on 1999-JAN-9, accompanied by Israeli security agents. 5 They avoided friends and relatives who were waiting for them in the airport. Dozens more members are being sought by Israeli police.

On 1999-JAN-8, Muslim prayer leader  Hayan al Idrisi at Jerusalem's Al Aqsa mosque referred to the Concerned Christians as "a dangerous group.'' He claimed that the group planned to destroy the mosque. It is located on the Temple mount and is Islam's third holiest shrine. Although no evidence has been produced to support this theory, it is consistent with prophecies in the Bible. In Revelation, the Jewish Temple is described as fully functional and engaged in regular ritual animal sacrifices when Jesus returns. The temple would have to be located at, or near, or on top of the mosque.

"There is growing concern in Israel that the group, the Concerned  Christians, is a forerunner of hundreds of fanatics who will be  drawn to Israel at the close of the millennium for what they expect  to be the return of Jesus." 5  The Israeli security authorities established a task force in 1998 to deal with violence perpetrated by various Christian groups as the year 2000 approaches. The police asked for a budget of $50 million dollars (U.S.) to handle the problem. Fortunately, their fears did not materialize.

The Denver Post published a news item about a law-enforcement official in England. He feared that Monte Kim Miller and followers might have targeting the Millennium Dome, a massive exhibition hall built east of London. This concern appears to have been based solely on the rumor that some of Miller's followers said that he was in England doing "research." "Scotland Yard will launch a massive operation to protect the site from all cults and terrorists...The operation will cost about $10 million."

Most of the Concerned Christians who landed in Greece have since been deported. Many are believed to be living in the Philadelphia, PA area.

In mid-2001 Kim Miller started a web site, which only contained information on how to purchase his audio recordings. 12

As of 2002-FEB-20, an E-mail had been added to the web site in which Miller says that people cannot be simultaneously good Christians and patriotic. He wrote: "The Lord even served warning to America that he will Judge the Judges through the unrighteous sword-bearing of Osama bin Laden's very own Manhattan Project. Fear God, not Osama bin Laden, about 911.'' Miller states that the breaking of the seventh seal and sound of the seventh trumpet mentioned in Revelation have already occurred. They happened on 2002-FEB-15, the 777th day of the seventh millennium. (He believes that the millennium started on 2000-JAN-1). This would indicate that the end of the world can happen at any time.

We have a nagging concern that the Concerned Christians may be exactly what they claim to be: a peaceful group that mistakenly believed in the imminent return of Jesus at the millennium, and who had traveled to Jerusalem to view the event. The anti-cult movement, counter-cult movement, and media have given this group a lot of bad press. The police have made public only accusations of violent plans. No solid evidence has been provided that indicates any murderous intent by members of the group. No weapons have been produced. Since there will be no trial in Israel, the government will not have to prove that their accusations have any validity. We wonder if the government of Israel  merely picked on this group as an example to frighten off other apocalyptic organizations from visiting Jerusalem at the time of the Millennium. 11

Some in the anti-cult movement (ACM) have pointed to past disasters involving loss of life among the membership of new religious groups. Over the past three decades, these have included the Students of the Seven Seals (Branch Davidians), Heaven's Gate, Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God (in Uganda), The People's Temple, and the Solar Temple. The ACM often interprets these tragedies as group suicides, and suggest that Miller and the Concerned Christians may be headed for their own mass suicide. We consider this unlikely for three reasons:
bullet   The loss of life in the destructive new religious movements cited above were mainly mass murders.
bullet   In his recent report on the "Seventh Angel" he does discuss "losing one's life for the Lord's sake and the gospel's (Mark 8:34 - 35)." But he seems to interpret this symbolically, stating that it "means giving up one's own will in exchange for the Lord's will for his life. This includes, if necessary, one's fortunes and sacred honor."
bullet   Members of the group expect to play a major role in the activities surrounding the second coming of Jesus. They would probably not want to commit suicide now, when they have the expectation of seeing the end of the world unfold.

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Note:
This Concerned Christian group is not connected in any way with another Concerned Christian group in Mesa, AZ. The latter have a web page at: http://www.concernedchristians.org They conduct an Evangelical Christian ministry to Mormons - trying to convert Mormons into ex-Mormons.
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« Reply #32 on: August 01, 2006, 01:20:42 AM »

HOUSE OF YAHWEH® IN ABILENE, TEXAS

The  House of Yahweh was organized by Jacob Hawkins. He is an American, who had gone to Israel in 1967 to work on a kibbutz. While there, he heard of an archaeological discovery of a 1st century building that had "House of Yahweh" (in Hebrew) over the entrance. He believed that this was the name of a group specially selected in ancient times by God. He decided to return to the US and to build a sanctuary in Odessa TX with that name.

Members worshiped Yahweh (Elohim) and Yeshua, His son. They were Sabbatarians; that is, they hold religious services on Saturday. They celebrated the main Jewish festivals (Passover, Pentecost, Feast of Tabernacles). They rejected, with considerable justification, Christmas, Easter, Halloween as Pagan inventions. They believed that Yeshua was born in the spring time, when the shepherds are out watching their flock at night during the birthing season. They taught that Yeshua's shed blood cleanses believers from sin, but only if they also adhere to the 10 commandments.

Members tithed 10% of their earnings. The group's leadership was from 12 disciples and 70 elders. They published a periodical: The Prophetic Watchman. They didn't keep membership records, but reported (in 1980) congregations in the US, Israel, India, South Africa, West Africa, Burma, Australian and Belgium.

Jacob's brother Yisrayl was originally part of the Odessa group. But he left in 1980 to form a second House of Yahweh in Abilene TX. The brothers had disagreed over the proper name for God. Yisrayl is the High Priest and is assisted by elders, and male and female deacons. They celebrate the various Jewish feast days specified in Leviticus 23. They also celebrate two additional feasts: "Yahshua's Memorial" and "Last Great Day". They have a periodical called The Prophetic Word. In 1987, they reported seven congregations served by 35 ministers. They have about 100 followers living at their headquarters.

They place major emphasis on an end of world scenario which the believed would start on 1998-OCT. Their latest prophecy, published in 1999-SEP, is geared to the 7 year Middle East peace plan which was signed on 1993-SEP-13. They expect that when "the seven year peace plan...starts again in the fall of 2000" that the world will experience "the worst time of trouble ever." According to Isaiah 24, God will make the earth a wasteland and will scatter its inhabitants. The land will be utterly emptied and plundered. By mid-2001, they predict that 80% of the world's population will have been killed as a result of nuclear war. No rain will fall for 1260 days.

There have been a series of largely unconfirmed allegations about:
bullet   Extreme psychological control over the membership of the Abilene group. Members are told what to wear, what to read, and what to listen to or watch.
bullet   The assembly of weapons by the leaders.
bullet   "Four men tied to the militant, anti-government Posse Comitatus of Wisconsin are elders or guards in the House of Yahweh." 4
bullet   Polygyny within the group.
bullet   The belief that the House of Yahweh will play a major role in the War of Armageddon.
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« Reply #33 on: August 01, 2006, 01:32:00 AM »

The Creativity Movement was formerly called the "World Church of the Creator"

The Creativity Movement (TCM) is a non-Christian, non-profit, religious organization, with their head office in Illinois. 3 They have 24 regional and local branches. 4 They have members "all over the world." They promote the religion of "Creativity, based on the eternal laws of nature." Their prime objective is: "The survival, expansion and advancement of the white race."

They regard themselves as being motivated by a love for the white race. This implies extreme hatred of non-white races. They are overwhelmingly hate-filled towards Jews, African-Americans, and other non-whites. They hate homosexual behavior. However their concern in this area appears to be muted in comparison to other white-supremacist organizations.

U.S. District Judge Joan H. Lefkow ruled in 2002-NOV that the TCM violated the copyright of a Christian organization in Oregon, the Church of the Creator 1 by copying their name. 5 The TCM leader, white supremacist Matt Hale, is suing Judge Lefkow because of her decision. On 2003-JAN-8, Hale was arrested and accused of conspiring to kill Judge Lefkow. 6 Judge Lefkow ruled on 2003-APR-24 that the TCM had failed stop using the name World Church of the Creator and should be fined $1,000 a day until it complies.

The founder, Matthew Hale, was sentenced to 40 years in prison for conspiring to murder Judge Joan Lefkow. Her husband and mother were allegedly murdered on 2005-FEB-28 by a man unrelated to Hale and the Creativity Movement. He was angry at an malpractice ruling the Judge Lefkow had made.

Symbol, flag and slogans:

The church symbol is composed of three images on a white background. From top to bottom, they are:

a halo, which symbolizes that race is "unique and sacred above all other values."

a red and black crown which indicates that their group form the elite,

a large black letter W which stands for the white race.

Their flag consists of the church symbol on a red background. The blood-red color symbolizes their "struggle for the survival, expansion and advancement of the White Race." There is a white triangle at the right side of the flag which symbolizes the emergence of a "Whiter and Brighter World."

Their slogans include:

"A Whiter and Brighter World."

"RAHOWA" (RAcial HOly WAr)

horizontal rule
Racial beliefs:

Their race is their religion.

Their religion and philosophy called "Creativity" is based on the external laws of nature, the experience of history, on logic and common sense.

The white race is the finest achievement of nature.

Hatred for Jews, African-Americans, and other "mud races" flows naturally from their love of their fellow whites.

All of the progress in society has been due to the white race.

The entire white race is an extension of each white family.

Persons who are not white are of a "mud race." They may be a sub-species who share a common ancestor with the white race. Black people form the bottom level of humans, barely above monkeys and chimpanzees.

The percentage of white people on the earth has dropped from 33% in 1920 to about 8% today. There are 500 million white people alive today.

Founder Ben Klassen envisioned a racial holy war (RAHOWA) in the future between the white and non-white races.

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Morality:

"...what is good for the White Race is the highest value..."

"...what is bad for the White Race is the ultimate sin."

They believe that the American culture is becoming more decadent. Symptoms are: black crimes, growing acceptance of homosexuality, interracial marriage, increasing drug use, and lack of racial identity among white people.

Love and hate are the most powerful emotions; having both is healthy and essential to life.

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Anti-Christian beliefs:

Christianity is a violent religion. They have killed 1000 fellow Christians down through the years for every Christian that the Romans killed.

They do not believe that Jesus existed in the 1st century CE. They point to the complete lack of evidence from any non-Jewish source that verifies his existence in Palestine.

They reject the principle of loving your enemies. Enemies should be hated.

They reject the ethic of reciprocity which is expressed in the Christian golden rule and in many similar statements in other religions.

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Anti-semitic beliefs:

Jews were responsible for World War II

The Nazi holocaust never happened.

Jews control the U.S.federal government, which they call the JOG (Jewish Occupational Government)

Jews are in control of the United Nations.

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Un-Christian beliefs:

They do not believe in life after death; heaven and hell are a fantasy.

They have no belief in the existence of a God, angels, devils, spooks, etc. However, they do not use the term Atheist to describe their religion.

They do not know how the universe began. They remain agnostic on matters relating to the origin of life, the world and the rest of the universe.

Practices:

General:

They hope to expand the white race, to gain control of all of the land, and crowd out everyone else (i.e. members of the mud races). Everything is geared towards populating the earth with only white people.

They refer to black people as "niggers" rather than Negroes, African-American or blacks. This is because the latter terms indicate excessive respect.

They refer to their faith as a racial and natural religion.

Individual members of TCM are called "creators" because they believe that the white race has created all worthwhile culture and civilization.

Their primary mission is to convert other white people to their religion.

Membership is restricted to persons whose genetic heritage is "wholly or predominantly" from Europe.

A Creator should not meet with non-whites socially.

A Creator shuns "sexual deviation" which apparently includes homosexual behavior.

Location:

They urge that members relocate to central Illinois. Their reasoning is that they need an "area in which our influence and numbers are so widespread that we can be said to dominate that area."
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« Reply #34 on: August 01, 2006, 01:32:48 AM »

Diet:

They recommend "Salubrious Living" which involves the eating of natural foods in a proper balance, advocating a clean environment and organic farming.

Deception, and illegal activities:

When trying to participate on a call-in radio show, they urge their members to "Do whatever it takes to get on the air..."

They suggest that Creators call numbers at random from the telephone book. If the person who answers is not white, they are to say that a wrong number was dialed.

If they are in a country that has laws against the distribution of hate literature, Creators are to ignore those laws.

Rituals:

Creators (members) are expected to engage in a religious ritual five times a day. They recite the five fundamental beliefs of Creativity. All five relate to race, including the first belief: that their "Race is their Religion."

They have a wedding ceremony which can be performed only by church ministers. The bride and groom exchange their vows before nature.

They have a Ceremony of Pledging to Raise the Child Loyal to the White Race. It can be performed only by church ministers, ideally within the first week after birth. Both parents pledge to raise their child as a loyal member of the White Race and faithful to the church.

A Ceremony of Confirmation of Loyalty to the White Race can be performed by a minister on or after the child's 13th birthday.

Calendar: 1973 was the date of the first publishing of Nature's Eternal Religion; it is regarded as the year in which the W.C.O.T.C was founded. They have abandoned the Gregorian calendar. 1973 is considered the Incepto de Creativitat (Inception of Creativity), or I.C. Years following are called "Anno de Creativitat." Thus 1974 CE is called 1 A.C. The years before I.C. are called Prius Creativitat (Before Creativity). Thus 1972 CE is called 1 P.C.

Holidays:

Klassen day on FEB-20, the anniversary of their founder's birth.

Founding Day on FEB-21, the anniversary of the first publishing of the book Nature's Eternal Religion.

Kozel Day or Martyrs' Day on SEP-15: the date at which a Creator minister was killed in action.

West Victory Day on DEC-29, commemorating the white victory over the last organized native America resistance in 1890 CE (83 PC).

Festum Album is a week-long celebration that runs from DEC-26 to JAN-1. It celebrates white racial pride and unity.

The church and violence:

Their founder, Ben Klassen, wrote: "We have a non-violent religious movement. We have a comprehensive plan as to how to achieve a Whiter and Brighter World. Every step along the way is legal, constitutional and non-violent..." 1

The Creator Membership Manual says that: "any member of the Church who either commits crimes (other than unconstitutional violations of our right to freedom of speech, assembly, etc.) or encourages others to do so, will be subject to expulsion from the Church." 2 They view illegal or violent behavior as counter-productive. It subjects their own members to arrest. They feel that the public is craving for order, security and stability; people will reject any group that appears to advocate anarchy.

Although the organization itself considers itself non-violent, some of its members have allegedly engaged in racially an religiously-inspired criminal acts:

1991: George Loeb was arrested for the killing of Harold Mansfield Jr., an African-American military veteran in Florida. Leob was found guilty and received a life sentence with no chance of parole for 25 years. His wife was arrested and jailed on a lesser crime. Loeb was a minister in the COTC.

1994: Some COTC members in California planned two bombing sprees that were designed to attack African-American, homosexual and Jewish institutions. Police thwarted the terrorists' plans.

1997: Some skinheads (neo-Nazis) were distributing TCM pamphlets at a rock concert in Florida. About 11 of them attacked a African-American man and his son. Several  members were arrested, tried and sentenced for this crime. The police classified it as a hate crime.

1999-JUN/JUL: The Sacramento (CA) Bee reported on 1999-AUG-20 that two brothers are suspected in the murder of a gay couple (Gary Matson and Winfield Mowder), arson at three synagogues, and arson at an abortion clinic at the Country Club Medical Center in Sacramento CA. The two brothers are Benjamin Williams and James Matthews. The newspaper commented "Authorities also have reportedly linked the brothers to the World Church of the Creator..." 3 (This is the former name of TCM)

1999-JUL-3/4: A senior TCM member, Benjamin Nathaniel Smith, went on a shooting rampage through the mid-west, killing one African-American and one Korean-American. Six orthodox Jews and three African-Americans were wounded. Smith then committed suicide. He had earlier testified at Matt Hale's law hearing. When Hale was asked what he had to say to Smith's surviving victims and the families of the people who died, he commented: "We really just don't have anything to say to them. And that's part of our church. We do not socialize with the other races."

In an ironic twist of logic, on his July 6 episode of The 700 Club Pat Robertson, predicted that this type of violence will continue into the future. "There will be many more of them." He blamed Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU) for the "violence, killing, mayhem [and] hatred." His rationale was that if the ACLU, the AU and similar groups succeed in their goal of attaining true separation of church and state in the U.S., that the public will have have no religious influence to restrain them. Robertson said that in order to minimize racial assassinations, "...we must pull together to once again reestablish the Bible as our guidebook for faith and conduct." The AU requested an immediate on-air apology for these statements.

2002-AUG-16: Patrick John O'Sullivan, the leader of TCM in Victoria, Australia, was convicted of bashing and stabbing a man. According to evidence given in the court, he was chanting "white power" with a group of people at a house-warming in 1999-MAY. Another guest started to talk to O'Sullivan about his white supremacist views. They started to debate whether O'Sullivan can be considered a Nazi because he did not have German blood. According to the Herald Sun newspaper: "The jury found he then either butted or punched the victim in the head before stabbing him in the abdomen. The victim received a 5cm-deep (2") wound." 6

2003-JAN-8: U.S. District Judge Joan H. Lefkow ruled in 2002-NOV that the W.C.O.T.C., as the TCM was then known, violated the copyright of a Christian organization in Oregon, the Church of the Creator 7 by copying their name. 8 The TCM leader, white supremacist Matt Hale, launched a lawsuit against Judge Lefkow because of her decision. The church web site blasted the judge, using anti-Semitic and racial slurs to urge its white supremacist members to "show the k--- and n----- - loving judge that the jailing of . . . Hale will not stop our Church of the Creator!" On 2003-JAN-8, Hale was arrested and accused of conspiring with another individual between 2002-NOV-29 and DEC-17 to kill Judge Lefkow. U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald said: "Freedom of speech does not include the freedom to solicit murder. The conduct alleged in this indictment is disturbing on many levels, but particularly so because it targeted a judge, whose sworn duty is to apply the law equally and fairly to all who appear before her."

2005-FEB-28: Judge Joan Lefkow returned to her home to find her husband Michael Lefkow, 64, and her mother Donna Humphrey, 89, dead in her basement. They had been shot to death. The murders came one month before Matt Hale was scheduled to be sentenced for trying to have the judge killed because of her handling of the 2003-JAN trademark dispute. Authorities are investigating whether the multiple murders were a work of revenge by white supremacists. Hale said on MAR-03 that: "There is no way that any supporter of mine could commit such a heinous crime. I totally condemn it and I want the perpetrator caught and prosecuted...I only hope they sincerely wish to apprehend the animal instead of railroading the innocent. Only an idiot would think I would do this." 10 Police later determined that the mass murders were unrelated to Hale and the Creativity Movement. They suspect a man who was angry at Judge Lefkow's decision in a malpractice case.

2005-APR-6: U.S. District Judge James Moody sentenced Matthew Hale to 40 years in jail for soliciting an undercover informant to murder Judge Lefkow. Judge Moody said that this "strikes at the very core of our system of government."
« Last Edit: August 01, 2006, 01:34:43 AM by DreamWeaver » Logged

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« Reply #35 on: August 01, 2006, 01:36:01 AM »

Early warning signs of "bad religions"

A handful of these conflicts have made national and even international headlines, from the siege of the Branch Davidian community to the group suicide of Heaven's Gate members. One consequence of these highly publicized incidents is that they have served to reinforce unreflective stereotypes about "cults" and "cult leaders" that are appropriate for some--but certainly not the majority of--minority religions. Unfortunately, such stereotyped information is often the only "data" readily available to the media and law enforcement at the onset of such conflicts.

Putting aside the technical discourse of sociologists, in ordinary language people talk as if there is an objective category of groups called "cults" that can be distinguished from genuine religions. In this commonly accepted view, cults are by definition socially dangerous false religions, led by cynical cult leaders who exploit followers for their own gain.

This stereotype is, however, deeply flawed, and for more than one reason. In the first place, "cult" is a socially-negotiated label that often means little more than a religion one dislikes for some reason. To certain conservative Christians, for example, a "cult" is any religion that departs from a certain traditional interpretation of scripture. Alternatively, ultra-conservative Christians who take a strictly fundamentalist approach to scripture often appear "cult-like" to many mainline Christians. In other words, one person's cult is another person's religion.

In the second place, the founders of new groups are--despite whatever personal flaws some might have--almost always sincerely religious. Part of the problem here is that most people unreflectively assume that religion is always something "good." If, therefore, a given religious body does something "bad," then ipso facto it must not be "real" religion. Instead, it must be a false religion, created for no other reason than the founder/leader's personal gain. This attitude is, however, naive. The ancient Aztecs, to take an extreme example, regularly tortured and sacrificed other human beings as part of their religious rites. These practices were, in fact, a central aspect of the Aztec religion. But, however much we might be able to explain and even to understand why the Aztecs engaged in such practices, no contemporary person would defend these rites as "good."

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Dangerous Groups:

The proper question to ask, then, is not whether some particular group is or is not a cult (in the sense of a "false religion"), but, rather, whether or not the social-psychological dynamics within a particular religion are potentially dangerous to its members and/or to the larger society. Unfortunately, once we get beyond such actions as torturing and murdering other human beings, the criteria for what one regards as harmful can be quite subjective. It has been seriously asserted, for example, that requiring "cult" members to be celibate and to follow vegetarian diets are harmful practices. Similarly, requiring followers to engage in several hours of meditation per day plus discouraging the questioning of "cult" doctrine have often been portrayed as parts of a group's "brainwashing" regime designed to damage one's ability to reason properly.

Once again, the problem with such criteria is that they are naive. If celibacy was harmful, for example, then how does one explain the lack of more-than-ordinary pathology among monks and nuns? Also, if certain mental practices actually damaged the brain, then why do members of intensive religious groups perform so well on I.Q. tests and other measures of individual reasoning ability? Such critical criteria also reflect an abysmal ignorance of traditional religious practices: Many traditional religions have promoted celibacy, restricted diets, prescribed lengthy prayers and meditations, discouraged the questioning of group ideology, etc. Clearly, if one wants to delineate serious criteria for determining "bad religion," then one must focus on traits that embody more than the observer's ethnocentric attitudes.

To begin with, making a radical lifestyle change as part of joining a religious group should not, in itself, be taken to indicate that the individual has therefore become involved in something harmful. Friends and family members may feel that an individual is making a mistake to quit a job or to drop out of school--actions that, by the way, very few contemporary new religions would actively encourage--but a free society means nothing if one is not also free to make mistakes.

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Developing Objective Early Warning Signs:

If one wishes to develop objective criteria for distinguishing harmful or potentially harmful religious organizations from harmless religions, one needs to place oneself in the position of a public policy maker. From this perspective, religions that raise the most concern are those groups that tangibly, physically harm members and/or non-members, or engage in other anti-social/illegal acts. However, a public policy maker might well respond that this post facto criterion is too little too late, and that what is needed are criteria that could act as early warning signs--criteria indicating that a previously innocuous group is potentially "going bad." The following discussion will make a stab at developing such criteria, with the caveat that the presence of the less serious factors listed below in any given group does not automatically mean they are on the verge of becoming the next Heaven's Gate.

Charismatic Leader: As part of this discussion, we shall be referring to a few false criteria for distinguishing a healthy from an unhealthy religion. In the first place, the mere fact that a group is headed up by a charismatic leader does not automatically raise a red flag. This is because new religions are much like new businesses: new businesses are almost always the manifestation of the vision and work of a single entrepreneur. In contrast, few if any successful businesses are the outgrowth of the work of a committee.

Divine Authority: Also, to found a religion, a leader usually makes some sort of claim to special insight or to special revelation that legitimates both the new religion and the leader's right to lead. The founder may even claim to be prophet, messiah or avatar. While many critics of alternative religions have asserted that the assumption of such authority is in itself a danger sign, too many objectively harmless groups have come into being with the leader asserting divine authority for such claims to be meaningful danger signs.
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« Reply #36 on: August 01, 2006, 01:38:26 AM »

Use of Authority: Far more important than one's claim to authority is what one does with the authority once he or she attracts followers who choose to recognize it. A minister or guru who focuses her or his pronouncements on the interpretation of scripture or on other matters having to do with religion proper is far less problematic than a leader who takes it upon her- or himself to make decisions in the personal lives of individual parishioners, such as dictating (as opposed to suggesting) who and when one will marry. The line between advising and ordering others with respect to their personal lives can, however, be quite thin. A useful criterion for determining whether or not this line has been crossed is to examine what happens when one acts against the guru's advice: If one can respectfully disagree about a particular item of personal--as opposed to religious--advice without suffering negative consequences as a result, then the leadership dynamics within the group are healthy with respect to authority issues.

One of the clearest signs that leaders are overstepping their proper sphere of authority is when they articulate certain ethical guidelines that everyone must follow except for the guru or minister. This is especially the case with a differential sexual ethic that restricts the sexual activity of followers but allows leaders to initiate liaisons with whomever they choose.

Above the Law: Perhaps the most serious danger sign is when a religious group places itself above the law, although there are some nuances that make this point trickier than it might first appear. All of us, in some sphere of life, place ourselves above the law, if only when we go a few miles per hour over the speed limit or fudge a few figures on our income tax returns. Also, when push comes to shove, almost every religion in the world would be willing to assert that divine law takes precedence over human law--should they ever come into conflict. Hence a group that, for example, solicits donations in an area where soliciting is forbidden should not, on that basis alone, be viewed as danger to society. Exceptions should also be made for groups or individuals who make a very public protest against certain laws judged as immoral, as when a contentious objector goes to jail rather than be drafted into the military.

On the other hand, it should be clear that a group leader who consistently violates serious laws has developed a rationale that could easily be used to legitimate more serious anti-social acts. Examples that come readily to mind are Marshall Hertiff, founder/leader of Heaven's Gate, who regularly ducked out on motel bills and who was once even arrested for stealing a rental car, and Swami Kirtananda, founder of the New Vrindavan community, who was caught authorizing the stealing of computer software before being arrested for ordering the murder of a community critic. Documentable child abuse and other illegalities committed within the organization are also covered by this criterion.

End of the World Scenarios: Another misconceived criterion is perceiving groups as dangerous because of apocalyptic theologies. Almost every religion in the larger Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition has an apocalyptic theology, even the traditional peace churches that forbid members from participating in the military. Thus, contrary to the assertions of some contemporary critics of religion, having an apocalyptic theology does not, in itself, raise a red flag. This is because in most apocalyptic scenarios it is God and his angels who fight the final battle, not flesh-and-blood human beings. The human role is spiritual, and the "saved" fight a spiritual war, not a literal, physical war.

An apocalyptic theology is only dangerous when individual followers believe they are going to be called upon to be foot soldiers in God's army, and prepare themselves by stocking up on weapons and ammunition. Groups that come to mind here are some of the Identity Christian churches who see themselves as preparing to fight a literal war with God's enemies. On the other hand, a community's possession of firearms--in the absence of such a theology of physical confrontation--is probably not dangerous, if no other danger signs are present. If the simple possession of firearms by members was a significant danger sign, then the Southern Baptist Convention would be the most dangerous "cult" in the nation.

Salvation: Another false, yet frequently voiced criterion is that religious groups are dangerous which see only themselves as saved and the rest of the world as damned. Like apocalypticism, this trait is far too widespread among traditional religions to constitute an authentic danger sign. A more meaningful characteristic should be how a religion actually treats non-members.

Group Isolation: Another criterion is a group's relative isolation. This trait is somewhat more complex than the others we have examined. On the one hand, there are abundant examples of traditional religions establishing communities or monastic centers apart from the larger society that have posed no danger to anyone. On the other hand, some of the worst abuses have taken place in the segregated (usually communal) sub-societies of certain minority religions. From the suicidal violence of People's Temple to the externally-directed violence of AUM Shinrikyo, it was the social dynamics found in an isolated or semi-isolated community that allowed such extreme actions to be contemplated.

In order to flag this characteristic while simultaneously avoiding stigmatizing every religion that sets up a segregated society as being potentially dangerous, it might be best to invert this trait and state it as a counter-indicator. In other words, rather than asserting that any religion with a partially isolated community is potentially dangerous, let us instead assert that the relative lack of such boundaries indicates that the group in question is almost certainly not dangerous.

Deception: A final early warning sign is a group's readiness to deceive outsiders. Some critics have asserted that a recruiter who invites a potential convert to a dinner without mentioning that the event is being sponsored by such-and-such church is deceptive. Others have criticized religions possessing a hierarchical system of knowledge to which only initiates are privy. These kinds of criticisms are silly. When a guru publicly asserts that no one in his organization is involved in illegal drugs and police later find a LSD laboratory in his basement, that's deception.

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Warning Signs:

To summarize, the traits designated above as early warning signs of 'bad religion'" are:

   1. The organization is willing to place itself above the law. With the exceptions noted earlier, this is probably the most important characteristic.
   2. The leadership dictates (rather than suggests) important personal (as opposed to spiritual) details of followers' lives, such as whom to marry, what to study in college, etc.
   3. The leader sets forth ethical guidelines members must follow but from which the leader is exempt.
   4. The group is preparing to fight a literal, physical Armageddon against other human beings.
   5. The leader regularly makes public assertions that he or she knows is false and/or the group has a policy of routinely deceiving outsiders.

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« Reply #37 on: August 01, 2006, 01:40:19 AM »

I. Group Profile

   1. Name: Wicca, Wicce, the Craft or Neo-Paganism; Wicca means "to bend or alter" from the Old English (Matthews, 339).

      The derivation of the word "Wicca" has been the subject of much debate among the people who practice it. Some think it was originally a word meaning "wise," some say it derived from words meaning "twisted." These arguments could be followed in articles written for pagan newsletters and magazines, as well as in early computer newsgroups or web sites. It was not commonly used by the members of the groups who practice it until around 1980, when much of the debate began. It could be said that this was one of the ways members of the various groups sought to distinguish themselves from one another within the movement.

      "The Craft" is a much older way to describe what is commonly known as witchcraft. Practitioners who use this term either do not have a religious facet to their practice, or are pagan in faith and use the term to encompass their magical belief and practice. Members who claim to be descended from relatives who were witches often use this term.

      The term "Neopagan" is used to distinguish those of magical religious belief from the Wiccans, but it also includes the Wiccans. Around 1980 in North America, the members of groups who were initiated into a coven descended in a direct line from Gerald Gardner or Alex Sanders (founder of Alexandrian witchcraft) began using the term "pagan" to describe those who were not members of their covens. The word "Neo-pagan" appeared in a periodical called Green Egg [insert date] . Oberon Zell (formerly known as Tim Zell and Otter Zell), publisher of Green Egg claimed to have coined the word "Neo Pagan" in his publication. 1 . However, the word "Neo pagan" appears much earlier in an essay by F. Hugh O'Donnell, Irish MP in the British House of Commons, written in 1904. 2 O'Donnell, writing about the theater of W. B. Yeats and Maude Gonne, criticized their work as an attempt to marry Madame Blavatsky with Cuchalainn. Yeats and Gonne, he claimed, openly worked to create a reconstructionist Celtic religion which incorporated Gaelic legend with magic. They were early members of the Order of the Golden Dawn, which included Aleister Crowley, who later founded the OTO and became known for his use of sex magic and the invocation of demons in his practice.

      Gerald Gardner met Crowley in the 1930's at a social event held in the New Forest of England, according to Robert, a member of Gardner's coven. At this meeting, it is believed by Robert's informant (the curator of the Museum of Witchcraft on the Isle of Mann, who was at the meeting), several prominent members of London society were planning a magical order which would be quite like that proposed by Yeats and Gonne, using the formal magic practiced by the Ceremonial Magicians (like the Golden Dawn) in combination with the folk magic of the common people of Britain.

      At the time, the Irish and all things Celtic were not yet as favored as they are today, so the English would have wanted a more pure British group. Dorothy Clutterbuck was among those present at that meeting. When discussion turned to who would be chosen to lead the order as High Priestess, it was decided that it should be someone who had good relations with the commoners in her acquaintance and who could convince them to share their powerful, albeit vulgar, secret magic. Clutterbuck was chosen to lead one of many New Forest covens formed that night. Later, in the 1960's, Sybil Leek became famous as a New Forest witch, claiming descent from a long family line of witches.

   2. Founder: Gerald B. Gardner is considered the first founding father of all modern incarnations of Wicca. Some of his students later went on to found other Wiccan traditions, from which arose more branches, continuing the process of self-perpetuation. Gerald Gardner is one of many practitioners of a magical religion which has come to be known as Wicca. In his writing, the word Wica is used, but in practice, his coven members did not use the word outside of their initiatory rites, according to Robert, a member of the coven. Gardner became famous by publishing books on the craft or witchcraft. Others rejected him for publishing, which they viewed as a violation of vows to remain secret

   3. Date of Birth: Gardner was born on June 13, 1884 and died February 13, 1964.

   4. Birth Place: Lancashire, England.

   5. Year Founded: 1951.

   6. Sacred or Revered Texts: There is no sacred text encompassing all of Wicca, in all its many andeclectic incarnations. However each Coven has a Book of Shadows, which contains rituals,invocations and charms. They contain things that have been learned from experience and fromeach other. Witches often copy from each others' books that which appeals to them so functionally, no two are ever exactly like. Ideally a Book of Shadows should contain only methods that have proven successful and consistent whereas failed ideas are excluded. Along with the Book of Shadows , other essential texts are two grimoires: The Greater Key of Solomon the King which dates from medieval times and The Book of the Sacred Magic of Abra-Melin the Mage which was published in the late 1900s (Melton, 165).

      Wiccan covens based on Gardnerian-type initiations probably have some kind of Book of Shadows , but many general neopagan covens and solitary practitioners do not. Most initiatory covens will have a reading list of books published on topics related to pagan religion and magic. Many books have been published by writers who simply made up the information within. Much of the history and practice of Wicca is based on oral tradition, with many conflicting stories arising as various factions have created a body of sacred belief and practice for themselves.

   7. Cult or Sect: Negative sentiments are typically implied when the concepts "cult" and "sect" are employed in popular discourse. Since the Religious Movements Homepage seeks to promote religious tolerance and appreciation of the positive benefits of pluralism and religious diversity in human cultures, we encourage the use of alternative concepts that do not carry implicit negative stereotypes. For a more detailed discussion of both scholarly and popular usage of the concepts "cult" and "sect," please visit our Conceptualizing "Cult" and "Sect" page, where you will find additional links to related issues.

   8. Size of Group: Because of its lack of hierarchical structure and methods for initiating members, the actual number of practicing members of the many Wiccan traditions has been difficult to ascertain. Also several of its constituents have been hesitant to reveal their religious affiliation due to a fear of public persecution and prejudice. A recent estimate is that there exist somewhere between 300-30,000 covens in the United States today (Lewis, 302). This tremendous range in estimated size effectively says that no one knows.
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« Reply #38 on: August 01, 2006, 01:41:03 AM »

History

      Gardner was a retired British civil servant who claimed to have beeninitiated into the New Forest Coven by Dorothy Clutterbuck in 1939. The New Forest Coven claimed to be a traditional Wiccan coven where rituals and practices had been passed down since pre- Christian times. In 1951, laws prohibiting the practice of witchcraft in England were repealed and soon thereafter in 1954, Gardner published his book, Witchcraft Today . His work was based on the thesis by the anthropologist, Margaret Murray, that witchcraft has existed since pre-Christian times but was hidden because of persecution (Melton, 162-165).

      More recently, the actual legitimacy of Gardner's claims has been refuted with the existence of claims that Gardner was never initiated by a Dorothy Clutterbuck and that the rituals and practices outlined in his book are simply a synthesis of several sources, including Murray's work, the writings of Aleister Crowley and Freemasonry (Melton, 165; Adler, 63-64). Critics and experts have since drawn the conclusion that Gardner probably was involved in a form of Wicca, as in the Old Religion 3 of earth magic and herbal practices, but in time created a more ritualized and romanticized Wiccan form (Lewis, 173). The Wiccan tradition he created eventually became known as Gardnerian Wicca.

      Although Gardner's claims in Witchcraft Today that Wicca has existed since pre-Christian times have since been refuted, this is not to say that Wicca did not exist during the pre-Christian era. It is simply that the Old Religion of Wicca focused more on herbal medicine and magical lore (Lewis, 178-179).

      The romantic idea that Wicca survived from the "Old Religion" through the "Burning Times" is an important part of the belief of many modern practitioners. As in any religion, rigid scholarship is not a requirement for membership. This idea is another tenet that provides a point of separation among the groups within the movement, along with yet another small faction that believes witches are survivors or reincarnations of the citizens of Atlantis, though this is more popular in North America.

      A recent article in Gnosis magazine has created another huge debate in the movement. In it, the writers suggest that Wicca is based on earlier rituals of the Order of Woodcraft and those used later in the Boy Scouts. Among those who have hastened to discredit these theories are the proponents of the North American "I've got lineage" factions. In Britain, it is fairly common knowledge that Gardner cobbled together ideas from many sources to create what has become a viable religious movement.

      Regardless of its relatively benign practice, as Christianity began to spread across Europe, so did its influence especially when the Kings converted to Christianity. Further into the countryside, the common people tended to practice both the Old Religion and Christianity but as the Church became more and more hierarchical and patriarchical, the drive to cease all Pagan practices substantially increased. With the increasing persecution, the Inquisition and witch-hunts, it is understandble why practitioners of the Old Religion eventually went underground and remained anonymous until the coming of Gerald Gardner (Adler, 45-46).

      One of Gardner's students, Alexander Sanders later revised Gardnerian rituals and practices into another Wiccan tradition, called Alexandrian for the ancient city of Alexandria. The misconception that Alexandrians are named for a city is a common one. Members of the group began calling themselves Alexandrian after the founder, Alex Sanders, to distinguish themselves from the Gardnerians (a term coined by an Alexandrian in an article written in the 1960's in England, now out of print). The Alexandrian covens differ from the Gardnerians by incorporating more of the ritual used by the ceremonialists and material based on the Kabbalah. They are considered "high church" among the Wiccans.

      Members of Sander's covens say that he never actually studied with Gardner, but was given an initiation into Gardner's coven and got a copy of the Book of Shadows used by the group, to which he then added material used by his students. It was once common for people who practiced these forms of magical religion to extend courtesy initiations to one another, especially in the U.S. As of 1998, the original Book of Shadows written by Gardner was in the possession of a coven of Alexandrians in Canada, who bought it at auction when the American museum of witchcraft started by Ray Buckland was sold. They have offered it for sale from time to time.

      A point of controversy in the movement has been over which "traditions" are truly related, whether once iniated into a Gardnerian-based coven one is automatically entitled to material held to be initiatory secrets by another "line" of the movement. In North America, the covens split into factions based on whether their initiates are descended in an unbroken line from Gardner. Some groups copy what they believe to be the original Book of Shadows verbatim and never change a word of the rituals. They report any initiations to a Priestess assigned to keep records, including pictures of the initiate and their initiating Priestess's verification of lineage. In Britain, the book is used for reference and changed by the initiate as they like. There is little emphasis on one's lineage and the groups tend to be inclusive rather than creating a focus on their differences.

      Even though by all observations, Alexandrian Wicca directly evolved from Gardnerian Wicca, Sanders as the self-proclaimed "King of the Witches," appeared as a guest on several television shows and just like Gardner, worked towards publicizing Wicca, which drew criticisms from the older, more traditional constituents of the Craft (Melton, 772).

      Eventually these two main Wiccan traditions migrated from Britain to the United Statesduring the 1960s and 1970s (Matthews, 340). As to be expected, several new branches emerged during this time due to the influx of ideas. Some North American covens claim to have been founded earlier than the 1930's or by "war brides" who were early Gardnerian initiates.

      Eventually in 1972, an Alexandrian High Priestess, Mary Nesnick, created a tradition called Algard Wicca which bases its foundation upon the similarities between Gardnerian and Alexandrian Wicca (Melton, 772). Another form of Wicca, Dianic , also began to emerge in the United States in 1971. Unlike other traditions, Dianic focuses on the worship of Diana, the ancient greek Goddess and consequently, a higher percentage of women and feminist beliefs are found in Dianic covens. The Dianic tradition formed in two separate locations; first in Venice, California by Zsuzsanne Emese Budapest and in Dallas, Texas by Morgan McFarland and Mark Roberts (Melton, 782).

      The California Dianics are separatist feminist Goddess worshippers, founded by Budapest. The Texas Dianics are polytheists, with no particular emphasis on either Goddess or God, according to initiates. By far, the largest number of modern pagans are not members of Gardnerian type covens -- the term "Dianic" was used by the Gardnerian- based groups to identify the groups not based on Gardnerian or Alexandrian initiations. It has been used as a term of derision toward the goddess worshippers by others, rarely does someone self-identify as Dianic, except in the case of initiates of the Texas Dianics, who use the term to describe themselves, largely because Diana was one of the tutelary deities of the group.

      More currently, however, a larger proportion of members in Wicca are known as eclectic practitioners . That is, they are not a part of any specific Wiccan craft and often not part of a coven. Instead, these practitioners draw upon several sources to form their own individualized and innovative religious practices (Lewis, 86-87).

      These eclectics are more commonly called " Neopagan " or " Pagan ". Those not part of a coven are called Solitaries by the Wiccans, but rarely self-identify with that term. Some use the term "Wicca" to self-identify, but the members of the initiatory covens based on Gardnerian and Alexandrian practice have begun a concerted effort to claim that term belongs to their groups alone. The confusion may have arisen from early neopagan writers using the terms interchangeably. Independent believers in a magical pagan religion may have begun using the term Wicca to refer to themselves in the belief that there was virtually no difference among the groups.

      Some initiates of the Gardnerian-based craft even believe that without an initiation, one cannot be a witch. This is in conflict with the belief of many witches who have practiced magic passed down to them from relatives or friends that they are indeed witches, whether they have a pagan religion or otherwise. In fact, many Gardnerian type Wiccans are independent practitioners, living too far from others of their initiatory group or otherwise unable to find Wiccans of similar enough belief to form a coven.

      Many modern pagans do not consider themselves to be witches.
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« Reply #39 on: August 01, 2006, 01:42:43 AM »

Beliefs of the Group

      Wiccan practitioners believe in a balanced polarities, especially that of the feminine and masculine. These two aspects of nature are embodied in two dieties, known as the Goddess Goddess and God . Traditionally most Pagan gods such as Diana, Hecate, Pan and Zeus are considered to represent the different aspects of the Goddess and God. Most traditions worship the two dieties as equals where none deserves more importance than the other. This usually translates into a balance between the feminine and masculine forces in a coven, although men tend to be a minority in the Wiccan religion (Adler, 108; Matthews, 344). However a few branches, such as Dianic, give more (or sole) importance to the feminine aspect (Lewis, 280).

      There are many neopagans who are monotheists, polytheists or duotheists. Many regard the gods as real, not simply as aspects of a male or female deity. Hence, the gods are worshipped as themselves. Some groups, such as the Church of All Worlds, acknowledge one another as manifestations of deity, addressing each other in ritual as "Thou art God, Thou art Goddess". Not all groups worship all gods. Some may only worship the Norse pantheon or the Greek. Others may only worship specific gods, alone or in combination with gods from the same or different pantheons. In some groups each person has their own deities, while the group may have tutelary deities.

      According to Wiccan tradition, the Goddess is the immanent existing force and the originof all creation as in the Earth, nature and life itself. Evidence of Goddess worship since the pre-Christian era exists in the form of small statues and carvings of voluptous female figures that have been found throughout Europe (Cabot, 21-22). The Goddess has three faces: the Maiden, the Mother and the Crone (Lewis, 19-20). These faces correspond to the many different cycles in nature: the waxing, full and waning phases of the moon; the menstrual cycle and the cycle of life in birth, life and death.

      The God aspect is better known as the Horned God from the ancient Celtic god, Cernunnos ("The Horned"). Evidence of a belief in the Horned God dates back to cave paintings from the Paleolithic times in Europe. Other representations of the Horned God later appeared in Egypt, Mesopotamia and India (Murray, 1952, 23-24). The Horned God is worshiped as the masculine side of nature as well as the opener of the gates of life and death. The Horned God represents the fertility that allows the Goddess to create life so in essence, all life originates from Him. He also known as the Hunter so eventually, He is a bringer of death (Adler, 218). According the Wiccan belief, the Horned God represents a masculine force that is wild, strong and expressive without being violent, patriarchical and destructive. Essentially, the Horned God is the perfect opposing force and complement to the Triple Goddess.

      Some neopagans and Wiccans do worship the gods or aspects of the god which are indeed warlike or patriarchal. Each person is able to create their own set of beliefs about the nature of deity and their relationship. One of the big drawing cards in the early neopagan movement was its lack of dogma. The movement flourished in the 1960's anti- establishment environment. Its ideas may have been introduced by people who follow a structured coven or initiatory path, but it was quickly adapted by countless others who saw an opportunity to find meaning in a confusing religious mileu.

      Due to its innovative nature, Wicca does not have a written set of rules for its members to follow. However three main beliefs guide practitioners through their actions and beliefs. The first law is known as the Wiccan Rede which states: "An ye harm none, do what ye will." The basic meaning is that members are allowed to follow whatever path they choose so long as no harm befalls others, including themselves. The Wiccan rede also serves as an ethical guideline for magical practices in everyday life and ritual (Matthews, 341).

      The Wiccan Rede is closely related to the writing of Aleister Crowley who said, "Do what you will is the whole of the law." The rede is probably a later adaptation by Gardner, and is certainly not necessarily a part of all neopagan belief.

      The second law that Wiccans follow is the Threefold Law , which simply states that a person's deeds return to him/her three times over. The Threefold Law has large implications in governing one's behavior because due to its meaning, the repercussions of both good and evil behavior return to their originator three times over (Matthews, 341).

      This law is also mostly confined to the Gardnerian-based wiccans. Some magical practitioners do not subscribe to it at all, invoking demons and casting curses with abandon. However, there has been a great deal of writing on the Wiccan and neopagan movement that attempts to sever the early ties with ceremonial magic and its later incarnations such as The Church of Satan and the Temple of Set or the like. The Satanists don't want to be lumped with the Wiccans any more than the Wiccans want to be lumped with them. To a Satanist, the Wiccans are weak and ineffectual. Many neopagans worship Egyptian gods, including Set, but tend to distinguish themselves from practitioners from The Temple of Set, withing to be seen in a more positive light. Satanists and the Temple of Set , conversely, relish the limelight associated with their negative image.

      The final belief is that of Reincarnation . Wiccans do not believe in heaven or hell since death is considered to be another form of existence. Some Wiccans believe that a soul is continually reborn whereas others believe that once a soul learns all the life lessons, it is granted eternal rest in a place called the Summerlands. Reincarnation is the ultimate method for curbing the misuse of magic and evil behavior since it deals out a type of cosmic justice in that person is reborn in a position that befits their deeds from the previous life (Matthews, 341).

      Some do not believe in reincarnation at all. Nor does belief in a deity from a historically Greek pantheon, for example, necessarily require one to worship in the historical Greek manner. Part of the modern pagan religion is a mix and match set of beliefs and practices refined to suit the sensibilities of the modern world. Human sacrifice is out. Dancing naked under the moonlight is in, in some groups.

      Although Wiccan practices vary greatly from tradition to tradition and coven to coven, most practitioners follow a basic system of ritual and celebration. Covens range in number of members, but traditionally have a maximum of thirteen (Adler, 108). When the number of members in a coven exceeds thirteen, the common belief is that the coven should split, to continue the self-perpetuation process. Wiccans do not have any holy buildings for their rituals. Due to their beliefs, any place in contact with the Earth will suffice. Instead Wiccans worship what is known as the Circle. The area is purified by the four elements and then the Circle is cast , usually by someone walking clockwise along its perimeter and drawing an actual circle, sometimes with a wand or athame which are two common Wiccan tools. After this, the four cardinal directions are greeted and invoked, according to the tradition and preference of the practitioners (Cabot, 114).
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« Reply #40 on: August 01, 2006, 01:44:04 AM »


      Other neopagans practice entirely without formal circle-casting. Some Celtic reconstructionists worship in a Nemeton, as they believe the ancients did, within a ritual framework based on three realms - earth, wind, water. Others have adapted Native American paradigms and invoke the directions, including Above and Below.

      Wiccans conduct their magical and sacred rites within the Circle, invoking the names of the Goddess and God and the powers of nature. Once the Circle has been cast, the space within represents an altered consciousness that is "between worlds." The Circle also serves to contain energy that is built up during the magical rites until it is ready to be released in what is known as the Cone of Power.

      When the Cone of Power is released, the energy goes into the purposes that the Wiccan practitioners desired for it during their rites (Adler, 108-109). Also common during Wiccan rituals, a cup of wine is raised and an Athame is dipped into it. The cup is then passed around the Circle to be drunk by the practitioners with the words, "Blessed Be." Cakes are then passed around as well, to complete the socialising and fellowship that is present in covens (Adler, 168). Sometimes rituals are also conducted skyclad (naked) or in special costumes, depending on the Wiccan tradition (Lewis, 79). The purpose of either is to increase the unity with nature and magical potential. At the end of the rites, the Circle is opened, usually the counterclockwise direction (Cabot, 116).

      Wiccans have a set of tools commonly used for casting circles and during rituals. Thebroom, a stereotypical Wiccan symbol, actually serves the purpose of purifying a space before casting a circle. An altar is also commonly set up in the center of the circle where the members cast magic. The main tools utilized by members are the wand , cup , pentacle and athame , which is a type of black-handled dagger. These objects represent fire, water, earth and air, respectively. In some traditions, the wand is symbol for air and the athame a symbol for fire. With the altar and practitioner, if solitary, or High Priestess, in a coven, located in the center of the circle, the fifth element of spirit is present during the spellcasting (Matthews, 341-342). This totality of the elements and nature perfectly complement the image of the Goddess and God during the ritual.

      Some Wiccans have alternate associations with elements and directions, especially those based on Norse or Welsh covens formed in North America since 1960.The Athame in some groups is a white-handled knife used in ritual, the black handled athame might be used outside the circle for magically related work such as gathering herbs or cutting candle wicks. Another tool used for these purposes is the boline, a cresecent shaped knife.

      The most well-known ritual is that of "Drawing Down the Moon," in which the spirit of the Goddess and God are drawn down into the High Priestess and High Priest, respectively (Adler, 109-110). The ritual usually occurs during a full moon and consists of an invokation and the High Priestess holding up the cup, full of water, while the High Priest raises the athame. After "Drawing Down the Moon," the High Priestess and High Priest are the dieties incarnate. In the succeeding time, they convey knowledge and information to the other members of the coven. Sometimes they answer questions about personal issues and give insight and understanding about the spiritual realms (Cabot, 115-116).

      Neopagans gather together formally or informally in public settings for discussion groups, parties, booksignings, baby-blessings, handfastings (the pagan form of marriage) and many other occasions. Drawing down the moon was a Gardnerian-type innovation in modern times, but since Adler's book and others have been published, it has been adopted by people who are not initiates of the formal groups. In fact, everything that has been published has been used by anyone who had access to the material, including non- initiates. Initiates comprise only a fraction of the movement.

      There are three types of Wiccan gatherings: Sabbats, Esbats and special purpose. In a special purpose gathering, a coven meets to deal with a common goal or issue that needs immediate attention, such as casting a health spell to aid a sickly friend. Most magical rites are performed at Esbats, which are small gatherings that correspond to the phases of the moon. Covens usually celebrate the Esbats alone, a practice which helps to reaffirm the bonds within a coven (Adler, 110). Larger and more tribal festivals also take place during the year. These holidays, known as Sabbats , celebrate four major agricultural and pastoral festivals ( Samhain , Imbolc , Beltaine and Lammas ) and four minor solar festivals of the solstices ( Winter and Summer )and equinoxes ( Vernal and Autumnal ). During these gatherings, several covens often meet together to share and enjoy the festivities (Adler, 110-111).

      Some neopagans celebrate the historic religious festivals of their deities, Dionysia, for example. Some have attempted to recreate rites based on their understanding of how the ancients might have worshipped, based on surviving materials such as the Eleusinian Mysteries. Others have created their rites entirely based on their own preferences.

It is important to note that among the neopagans, some distinguish themselves as Religious Pagans, as opposed to what they would call Cultural Pagans. In the 40 or so years of the movement in North America, a vast system of festivals and meetings has arisen, giving opportunity for anyone who joins in to identify and consider themselves part of the movement. Some pagans do not actually have a religious aspect to their practice, but wish to participate in the celebrations and adopt the magical personae associated with witchcraft or neopaganism.

While the Wiccan initiates consider themselves to be priesthood, the non-initiate has no intention of being their laity. They are simply unrelated, while sharing many common beliefs and practices. So, the covens comprised of Gardnerian-type initiates are priests and priestesses (or those who are in training to become initiated) who celebrate among themselves. Occasionally, a neopagan acts in a role similar to other clergy, performing blessings, weddings, etc., but it is not always an initiate of a formal group who acts in this capacity. Many are self-proclaimed clergy. In Canada and parts of the US, groups are actively seeking credentialled status for their members to be recognized as clergy by the local and federal governments. In some areas, Wiccans or Neopagans are active in Interfaith groups with every other religion.
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« Reply #41 on: August 01, 2006, 01:44:53 AM »

Issues and Controversies: Past and Present

      Note: The commentary which follows is fairly commonly held belief among neopagans and Wiccans. However, it should be stated that growing numbers of people in the movement do not wish to be associated with beliefs which they view as serving to marginalize their religion. Some modern pagans reject the role of victim and oppressed person.

      Wicca, in all its incarnations, is probably one of the longest and most persecuted religions in history. With the coming of Christianity in Europe, the Old Religion was almost immediately opposed. Although the rulers easily converted, the common folk were less accessible (Lewis, 44). Eventually during the 15th century, what became known as "The Burning Times" came to pass. As the Church spread lies about the Wiccan tradition and accused female practitioners of being handmaidens of Satan, Wiccans were increasingly persecuted as the hysteria increased. With the aid of witch-hunting manuals such as the Malleus Maleficarum , thousands of accused witches across Europe, a large portion of which were not even practitioners of the Old Religion, were hunted down and killed well into the 18th century in Europe. Even today, the actual number of people who died during that time is unknown (Ruether, 101-103).

      While the "Burning Times" were moving towards their end in Europe, in 17th century Salem, another witch-hunt was beginning. As with the European witch-hysteria, Salem fostered an environment ready for such a hysteria, strained as its inhabitants were between economics, lifestyles and politics as a result of their new surroundings and Puritan values and beliefs. With the addition of an interest in the occult and some knowledge in voodoo lore from a slave, the stage was set for another general panic and witch-hunt to begin (Boyer and Nissenbaum, 1974, 181). In 1692, a group of closely-knit girls ranging in age from nine to nineteen started to meet together to discuss the future. Because of a slight fascination with magic, one of the girls eventually created a crude crystal ball and from there, the path to the Witch Trials began (Boyer and Nissenbaum, 1974, 1-2). As time went on, the girls' parents began to show concern about their children's "odd" behavior and most likely were the original instigators of the belief in the presence of witchcraft. Only under persistent questioning did the girls finally begin to accuse other people in Salem of the practice of witchcraft (Boyer and Nissenbaum, 1974, 24). At this time, members of the clergy were struggling to reassert authority and create religious fervor. The accusations served as an opportunity to do exactly that (Boyer and Nissenbaum, 1974, 60-65). With the aid of Cotton Mather's The Wonders of the Invisible World , the witch-craze was justified and even further driven into a panic. Before the Witch trials ended, several people had been hanged and many more had been tortured or spent months in prison (Hill, 1).

      Today, Old Salem has been into a Maritime National Site for its esteemed status as a major center for the Eastern luxuries trade and its legacy of ships leaving its ports to open new trading markets overseas. Shortly after the Witch trials ended, New England trade increased and much later after the Revolutionary War, the sea port substiantially flourished. Even though most of the museums and historic landmarks are devoted to Old Salem's maritime heritage, the Visitor Center and a private museum present interesting ways to learn about the Salem Witch trials.

      Almost unbelievably the witch-hunts have persisted to the present day. As recent as 1986-1996 in South Africa ,thousands of people have been accused of witchcraft, although the term does not apply to a religion and practice similar to that of Wicca. The victims have been accused of powers that are remarkably similar to the accused powers of witches in Medieval Europe. Despite all beliefs to the contrary and regardless of an actual involvement in Wicca or the occult, witch-hunts have continued to occur across time and culture.

      One of the more common and present day controversies of Wicca, one that has its links to the European witch-hunt, is that of its supposed link to Satanism (Matthews, 342-343). One of the unlying reasons for this is the marked similarity between the visual representations of the Horned God and Satan. More than one theorist has suggested that one of the ways the Church aided in the persecution of Wicca and its predecessors was taking the Horned God and making Him into the Christian incarnation of evil (Murray, 1952, 32). Such a legacy probably helps to further the present-day prejudice against Wiccans. There have been allegations of members losing custody of their children and facing discrimination because of their religious beliefs (Matthews, 343). Despite all the misinformation concerning Wicca in popular culture, it should be obvious that none of it applies to true adherents of the Wiccan craft. Ideas such as human sacrifice and child molestation are in direct opposition to the Wiccan Rede. Unfortunately this ignorance and misinformation is a direct result of the tendency for Wiccan practitioners to remain anonymous and unnamed (Lewis 302). Even with such public awareness groups as the Witches' League for Public Awareness and The Witches' Web , the stigma that has been associated with the word "witch" is likely to remain for a long time.

      Another issue connected to Wicca is that of the feminist movement. Traditional Wiccan adherents and feminist proponents have had an uneasy relationship since Wicca was first introduced in the United States during the 1960s and 1970s. For the traditional Wiccan, the Goddess was a symbol of nature but for the feminist, the Goddess was the symbol of the empowerment of women (Neitz, 353). Feminist practitioners such as Zsuzsanne Bedapest and her branch of Dianic Wicca have emphasized the feminine aspect much more than traditional Wicca, to the extent that men are excluded from their covens (Neitz, 367). This does not sit well with traditional Wiccans who stress the balance of masculinity and femininity. Such obvious disregard for one polarity, in Wiccan belief, would throw the magical forces askew (Adler, 217). Perhaps another attractive aspect of Wicca is the opportunity for feminists to identify with the persecuted of Europe's Witch-hunt who were victims of the strongly patriarchical structure of Christianity (Neitz, 359). Since its connection to Wicca, the feminist movement has then focused its purpose on stripping away all the dark connotations of the word "witch" and restore to it instead the old attachments of healing and female power (Neitz, 358).
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« Reply #42 on: August 01, 2006, 01:46:12 AM »

This should keep you busy, Little Pilgrim. Grin
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« Reply #43 on: August 07, 2006, 12:17:17 PM »

Wonderful work.  I probably would have read it all, however I just finished reading a book that pretty much covered all that you had Wink

For those that ask there are several books at your local book stores or Christian book stores.  One I just finished up was titled "Another Gospel" and I do not recall the author however.  But it was a good read and very eye opening.

I really would like to sit down and write/read one that not only explained their different doctrine but also showed Biblical verses to refute their doctrine as well.  This especially with the cults professing to be Christian. 

One I ran across recently for example with the Christian Scientists and dealing with the sick and laying of hands.  The Bible shows us that the miracle healings of Christ's time and near that was something that was not a permanent gift upon the apostles.  We know that the Apostles and Paul were able to heal people.  We see examples of that and are told directly.

But by 2 Tim the gift was leaving Paul because he wrote in 2 Tim 4:20 "Erastus abode at Corinth; but Trophimus have I left at Miletum sick."  Paul could not heal Miletum.   This is a clear sign that they laying of hands to heal people in a miraculous way was no longer happening.  And it becomes hard to reconcile that people should not put trust in doctors when one of the disciples was a doctor. 

Either way great job on the post and I am sure it will be eye opening for many who do not notice. 

One note is moonies section is a duplicate post of JW.  Wink

Sincerely
Brother Jerry
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Sincerely
Brother Jerry

------
I am like most fathers.  I, like most, want more for my children than I have.

I am unlike most fathers.  What I would like my children to have more of is crowns to lay at Jesus feet.
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« Reply #44 on: August 08, 2006, 07:46:39 PM »

ASTROLOGY:

A CHRISTIAN ANALYSIS

Pastor Tony Costa, B.A., M.A.

Astrology is defined as a belief in the movement or the position of the planets and stars as the forewarnings of the will of the gods (or forces of fate), which the devotees of astrology may somehow cope with by taking some sort of evasive or preventive action.

Astrology, when related to the horoscopes and study of the signs of the zodiac, may indicate special potentialities in those born under a certain constellation, or signify good or bad luck for activities that might be engaged in during that particular day.

In ancient pre-Christian times, the concern for astrology was accompanied by actual worship of the heavenly bodies in a ritualistic way.

Astrology is condemned by God because it is an attempt on the part of humanity to usurp that which naturally belongs to God, ie. foreknowledge and acquire knowledge of the future whether near or far. Astrology is also a result of humanity's rejection of God's revelation, in that humans seek to worship the created order or themselves, rather than the Creator Himself. (Romans 1:25)

Scripture emphatically states in Deuteronomy 29:29 (NIV) "The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law." This truth is reiterated by Joseph in Genesis 40:8 "Do not interpretations belong to God?" and the prophet Daniel, "but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries" (Daniel 2:28 NIV)

That which is secret, be it the future, our plans for the future, the end of the age, the coming of Christ is in the jurisdiction of God alone. We are not privy to that information nor are we permitted to interfere into that area. What has been given to us to know by God has been given by way of revelation, to go beyond God's revealed Word is to tread into perilous waters. Once again Scripture admonishes us "…so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying, "Do not go beyond what is written." Then you will not take pride in one man over against another." (1 Corinthians 4:6 NIV) The result of going beyond God's revelation is human pride, the concept that man is the measure of all things and the master of his destiny. Therein lies the very essence of astrology. It all comes down to one point: CONTROL. It is the attempt to have control over one's future in regards to marriage, employment, relationships, etc. From the beginning, humanity has always sought to be independent and released from God. Humans have been assuming all along that they are their own god. This was the lie of the serpent in the Garden, "your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." (Genesis 3:5 NIV)

Astrology is false according to the Scriptures for the following reasons:

1) The stars were created by God to serve as "lights" and "signs" for calendar purposes (years, months, days, seasons). The stars were made for our benefit (Genesis 1:1, 14-19) and not for the purposes of divination or predicting the future. (Psalm 136:7-9)

2) The worship of the heavenly bodies and stars is condemned by God as idolatry. Under the Mosaic law, people who engaged in these practices were to be executed. (Deuteronomy 17:2-7)

3) The worship of heavenly bodies and stars are forbidden. (Deuteronomy 4:19)

4) The stars, being God's creation, are told in biblical poetical literature to worship God. (Psalm 148:3) The reason being that God alone is the Creator and worthy of all worship by the created order whether animated (humans, animals, plants) or inanimate. (sun, moon, stars, heavens, etc)

5) Israel was condemned for falling away from God by worshipping the stars. (2 Kings 23:4-5; 2 Chronicles 33:1-6)

6) God challenges the Babylonians to summon their astrologers and prevent His judgment from falling on the nation of Babylon. God Himself mocks the astrologers. (Isaiah 47:11-15) Astrology leads to error and cannot save anyone.

7) Astrologers cannot interpret the dreams of Nebuchadnezzar. (Daniel 2:1-2, 10-12)

Cool Astrologers cannot decipher the handwriting on the wall. (Daniel 5:7-8)

9) Daniel and his friends' knowledge surpasses those of astrologers. (Daniel 1:17, 20) This demonstrates that God's revelation, that Daniel had, was greater and much more reliable than the information that the Babylonian astrologers had.

10) God alone knows the future and He does not make it known through astrologers. (Daniel 2:27-28) Rather God reveals His plans to His chosen prophets. "Surely the Sovereign LORD does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets"(Amos 3:7 NIV) This agrees with Deuteronomy 29:29 cited above.

11) Although Jesus never mentioned astrology, we know that He opposed it since He viewed the Scriptures as authoritative and inspired as He said, "the Scripture cannot be broken" (John 10:35 NIV). We must also note that Jesus was the God-Man. As the Word who existed from all eternity with God and was Himself God (John 1:1-3, 18), He was the One who spoke with Moses and gave the Law (including prohibitions against astrology) to him. ( Compare Exodus 3:13 with John 8:58-59)

12) "Idolaters" will not inherit the Kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9-10) As noted earlier, God views astrology as equivalent to idolatry. (Deuteronomy 17:2-7)

13) Idolatry and witchcraft are condemned and those who practice it will not inherit God's Kingdom. (Galatians 5:19-21) Witchcraft and/or sorcery in the New Testament comes from the Greek word farmakeia (pronounced pharmakeia). We get the word pharmacy from this word. It means "sorcery", "witchcraft", "magical arts" and it is connected with idolatry. Astrology was related to sorcery and magical arts as well.

14) According to Revelation 9:20-21, the end times will be characterized by an increased involvement in sorcery or magical arts which includes astrology.

15) Those who practice "magical arts" (like astrology), have no part in the New Jerusalem, but are referred to as "dogs" which in biblical times referred to those who were unclean and outside of God's favour. (Revelation 22:15)

16) The chief Apostles, Peter and Paul personally condemned sorcerers with strong language. (Acts 8:9-10, 18-24; 13:6-12)

Thus, astrology is condemned throughout Scripture by the Law of Moses, the Prophets, Jesus Christ (implicitly, see point 11 above), the Apostles, and the Christian Church today.

There are 2 irrefutable facts in the Bible: 1) There is a God and 2) You are not Him. Only God is infinite and omniscient, Who knows all things, the end from the beginning. We are finite and limited in knowledge. Scripture reminds us to never to assume that we will know what will happen tomorrow. We should instead recognize that only God knows what tomorrow will bring. For this reason we are told that we should always say, "if it is the Lord's will." (James 4:13-16) We do not know the future, but we do know Him who holds it in the palm of His hand. What a blessed assurance this brings.
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