Tag Archives: logic

3 Life Lessons I Learned in Church (Or, the Hilariously-Sad Realization that I Grew Up in a Cult)

“Here’s an easy way to figure out if you’re in a cult: If you’re wondering whether you’re in a cult, the answer is yes.” ― Stephen Colbert, I Am America

They say hindsight is 20/20. Never has this cultural idiom been so true to me as the moment that  I realized I grew up in a cult. After conducting some personal and academic research about the characteristics of a cult, the scales fell from my eyes and, hallelujah, I could see.

It wasn’t as earth-shattering as I would have expected, in some ways, it was like I always knew. I just had to step out of the cult closet and see for myself.

A few characteristics of a cult include financial mismanagement, abusive behaviour, and attempts to control members through manipulation. During my time in my childhood church I experienced and/or witnessed each of these concerning behaviours. Don’t get me wrong, we weren’t the kind of horror movie cult that was sacrificing babies, or drinking poisoned Kool-Aid. Generally, it wasn’t even all that bad. But on the spectrum of church to cult, we had more in common with a cult than the typical church.

I learned a lot from my recent revelation, and I wanted to share what I learned with you. Below, I’ve included three life lessons I learned in church, or, as I like to say, the hilariously-sad realization I grew up in a cult.

Life Lesson #1: Your Time is Valuable

“If God is up at five in the morning for prayer… (dramatic pause)… Then you should be, too!”

Time is arguably our most valuable commodity, and it’s your time that a cult will take the most of. For most cults, controlling your time is almost as good as controlling your money. Since I was quite young I didn’t donate a lot of money, but let me give you a breakdown of how I spent my time:

There are 168 hours in a week. We sleep about 56 hours, and work about 40 hours each of the five workdays. That leaves about 72 hours left to do what we like. In our cult, we were told that our time was spiritual money in our spiritual bank account. If we had free time we weren’t doing enough for the Lord.

In a given week we would spend 19 hours in prayer (both communal and private), 6 hours in service, 4 hours doing street ministry (aka knocking on people’s doors and handing out pamphlets), 10.5 hours of driving ministry (picking up families for church programs), 3 hours youth ministry, 4 hours outreach ministry, and 5 hours in worker meetings or music practice. That left 19.5 hours of free time for 7 days, or approximately 2.7 hours of free time per day. To put it another way: if our free time had been money we would have barely made enough to support a child in a third world country.

When I finally committed to not go to church (cult) anymore, I suddenly had time to do what I wanted. It was as if I had discovered my belly button for the first time as an adult, which would be mind-blowing, to say the least.

Life Lesson #2: Question Everything

“When you come in here, turn off your brain.”

Ignorance is bliss, but cult ignorance? That shit is magical.

The first thing a cult takes away is your ability to question. You are not allowed to question leadership, the lack of faith healings, or the way money is being managed. You are discouraged from receiving a secular education and told to “turn off your brain” so the spirit could lead. Asking certain questions could get you ex-communicated. This meant that the Leaders would restrict any communication/contact between the ex-communicated person and the rest of the church congregation. This delicate practice was meant to somehow force the individual into repentance and to return once again to their (dysfunctional) church family.

In order to demonstrate your “true faith” you were required to leave your logic at the door and take everything on faith, no matter how absurd some of the services would get (running around the building and shouting at the top of your lungs was a frequently occurring event). While this kind ignorance was truly blissful, it quickly got out of hand.

Growing up in a cult was a lot like growing up in a tiny magical bubbleMy tiny bubble consisted of a small intimate group of people that saw each other every day. Like most charismatic churches we believed in faith healing, prosperity, and gifts of the spirit (speaking in tongues).

However, we also believed we could:

  • change the weather
  • drive cars without gas
  • teleport
  • pray back a woman’s hymen so she could re-lose her virginity on her wedding night (honest truth)
  • pray away the gay
  • chase demons out of the church (this actually involved physically running around)
  • pray over adult video stores to close them down (it actually did close down two weeks later, BTW)
  • repel bullets through prayer (when the persecution came)
  • pray people out of the grave.

It was a strange, wonderful, magical bubble, to say the least. But it was also a bubble that needed to burst.

For me, the pin that burst the bubble came the day we were asked to pray for a specific group of people to die.

We prayed, and they died, further justifying our beliefs in our magical powers.

It was scary, scary to be in a group of people you love and have grown to know over decades, then, one day, to see them all pray in mindless fervour for someone to die.

This is when the magic ended, I no longer viewed the world through the foggy haze of my magic bubble. I suddenly realized this was all crazy and I had no choice but to leave.

Life Lesson #3: Know When to Walk Away, And Know When to Run

“I don’t trust people with an education, they think too much with their head.”

As cliche as it sounds, things aren’t always meant to last forever. Leaving the safety and security of the community was hard. It was like a divorce; a divorce where you had to separate yourself from every single member of your family one by one. Although I came out relatively unscathed, there were people who I cared about who lost everything: family, money, and community.

The loss of community was the most heartbreaking. It left many bewildered and asking themselves a multitude of questions: What had been the point of all that hard work and time? Why did we pray so much? Why did I give away so much money? And why did I needlessly hate myself for natural body functions? Masturbation jokes aside, after leaving, or rather running, from the cult that I grew up in I learned that I don’t need their edification in my life to have purpose. I could live and make my own choices, without fear that God or church will disapprove. In my cult-free life I have found joy and purpose. Plus, there’s no one trying to steal my money anymore.


The writer of this post has chosen to remain ANONYMOUS.

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When Is A Good Deed Not A Good Deed? [When Taylor Swift Does It]

Post four about Taylor Swift. How on earth did we get here? I suppose it’s because, for better or for worse, she’s managed to attain the kind of pop culture prevalence and staying power which has resulted in my writing:

Which brings us to this Friday, three days after the artist donated $1,989 to a fan to help her pay off her student loans.

Click the image to be linked to the tumblr post cataloguing the full gift-opening.

The fan in question, Rebekah Bortnicker, created a video which she posted to tumblr, and which I’m half-watching as I write this. It’s actually pretty great. You know what else is actually pretty great, though? The way that some people have been reacting to this news, like nicole and Angela in the comments section of the People article I linked to up above:

thanksnicole

thanksangela

Continue reading

Gordon Brown Fixes Education (In A Single Post)

I’ve brought up the subject of education a few times now. I’ve never explored the subject on a grand scale, but I intend to rectify that today. Here’s some of the key issues our society seems to have with education, and what I think we could do to fix it.

In the interest of full disclosure, I want to say right here and now that I was homeschooled and can’t speak with first-hand experience on a lot of what I’m going to be talking about. A less arrogant man would take this as a sign that he should probably just shut his ignorant mouth about it, but I’m going to forge recklessly ahead. I do have some cursory teaching experience (though that’s to an adult population), I’ve helped kids with school in a professional capacity, and what with this culture’s frankly creepy obsession with high school (which oughta be a post in and of itself), I feel I’ve got at least a grip on what we’re dealing with.

Let’s begin. Continue reading

Shame Day: The History Channel

shamehistoryWhen I was growing up in Syria, we had two channels. One was the state-run propaganda channel, the other was the same channel, but with slightly less static. When my family did make an infrequent trip out of the country, the first thing on my agenda (after ratcheting up the AC to somewhere between “high” and “arctic gale”) was to plop down at the end of the bed and flip on the TV to see if they had Discovery or National Geographic or- best of all- The History Channel.

Of course, this was back before.

[Editor’s Note: Since 2009 The History Channel has gone by the one-word name “History.” Gordon will continue to refer to it by its original name for old times’ sake]

Now when I covered webcomic Sinfest for a Shame Day, I directly addressed the comic’s creator, Tatsuya Ishida, in the off-chance that he might stumble across what I had written. While I don’t think (1) anyone from the History channel is going to come across this post or (2) give a flying **** about it if they did, talking straight to the source came pretty naturally, so I’m going to be employing the same technique again. Continue reading

Evan and Gordon Talk: The Purpose of College

EVAN: This week on E&GT we take a break from scrutinizing film to look back about seven or so months to a different time of our lives: college. Now that we’ve both graduated we find ourselves in a different stage of life, and it begs the question of what those four years did for us, and whether or not that’s what we wanted or expected.

GORDON: Throughout my college career, especially towards the end, I heard a recurring argument:

“College is a scam,” they said, “It’s a trap or, at very best, a waste of money. You don’t learn anything you can actually translate into a job, so either drop out while you can or don’t sweat the grades and party your buns off.”

EVAN: Wait, who is the “they” that was saying this?

GORDON: I’ve read it in various Cracked articles, I’ve seen it covered in webcomics and in comments, I’ve heard it on the radio. Not always the same tone,  but it always boiled down to that essential idea. “College doesn’t teach you what you really need to know, it just puts you in debt and wastes your time.”

EVAN: Well, I guess that really begs the question of “What is it that we’re really supposed to know?” If college is the great institution to prepare us for our lives, what should it have taught us?

GORDON: Some would argue that technical and vocational skills are what we really need. Stuff that’s meant to train us for jobs. Wrenches, not Whitman.

EVAN: Which is the sort of thing you see advertised on television late at night or in the middle of the day; schools for electricians and dental assistants and plumbers and what have you.

GORDON: Which always come across as propaganda films from a dystopic alternate timeline. They can claim to be breaking the mold all they want- I’ll still always just see Orwellian Factory-Schools designed train the subservient masses for laboring in name of supreme leader and glorious fatherland.

EVAN: Heh heh.

The contrast to this idea you brought up when first introducing this topic, that the two sides could be seen as college prepping us for our careers or making us more well-rounded individuals.

There’s obviously more to it than that, but how would you boil the latter option down to its essence?

GORDON: I’d probably cite our own alma mater’s (for me more just “mater”) slogan of “global mindedness.” The idea is to create people who are, first and foremost, thinkers. Logical and critically minded thinkers with strong creative abilities and appreciation for art and wonder. A noble enough sentiment to be sure.

EVAN: To really engage with this topic I feel like we should have equal footing, and I’ll have to give our readers a little bit of context-

I’m currently unemployed, and chose to live the latter part of 2012 living with and taking care of my grandfather, whose wife [my grandmother] passed away in September. My job hunt has only very recently started up again.

I say that because as it stands one of us is currently working and knows how his education has aided him and the other is not.

GORDON: I, unlike my Canadian counter-part, am currently employed, having worked two jobs simultaneously for a while there. Having vainly searched for a job the entire summer and most of the fall, I am now working a job helping unemployed people find work, the irony of which is not lost on me.

EVAN: And did you, my Employed-American friend, find that a degree helped you in your search for work?

GORDON: In all honesty, I’m not sure.

On one hand, I can say that certain classes I brought definitely assisted me in securing a job, but those classes really more on the whole “applied” spectrum of education. I definitely didn’t need to go to a top 3% college. People, it turns out, don’t give a crap about where you went.

EVAN: Again, I can’t comment from experience, but I’d like to say that it depends on the job.

GORDON: This is probably true. However, if you were looking for a job, which is gonna look better on a resume? Four years of college, or four years of experience in that field? From everything that I’ve seen, I’d take experience every time.

EVAN: And I agree with that entirely. I can’t count the number of want ads I’ve seen [and this is for stuff like janitorial work, and dishwasher] that require “minimum 2 years work experience.”

It’s like, heck, what was I doing in school when I could’ve been out working this whole time?

GORDON: But of course, that brings up the first question: what’s the point of college? Are we expected to choose a career path and be trained like the mindless, dehumanized proles that we are?

EVAN: Well, for me personally my career goals were more tailored to an academic setting. My personal interest in writing and editing is definitely something that can and is fostered in that environment.

That being said, if I had skipped my four years of college to simply freelance as hard as I could out there in the real world, would I be a better writer today? I honestly couldn’t tell you.

GORDON: The problem is that both sides have really, really big flaws.

On the one hand, turning college into a simple vocational training course does truly rip the soul right out of academia. It makes it just the place you go to get a desk job instead of a manual one.

On the other hand, college as it is now, while fostering intellect and creativity, is as unhelpful as it is expensive. Why put yourself over a hundred thousand dollars in debt to not get employment?

EVAN: I guess in the bigger picture, what is it that we want to do with our lives?

There are plenty of jobs out there that don’t require a college education, and that certainly benefit from hard work at an early stage.

On the flip-side, there are jobs that you simply can’t get without a degree.

GORDON: We also can’t imagine that we can simply get any job we want to begin with. It’s all a gamble. I can get a degree in biology, but that doesn’t at all mean I’m gonna get a job in biology- heck, I’d probably be lucky if I got something even close!

EVAN: Like a janitor in a pharmaceutical company. Or the guy who delivers mail to a biology professor’s house.

GORDON: Exactly. So is that it, then? It’s the whole dang system?

EVAN: I mean, yeah. I feel like more often than not that’s all it really boils down to.

GORDON: So let’s talk about an ideal universe. Or at least one that ain’t quite so screwed up. What’s college look like? Give me your take.

This does not count as an ideal college…

EVAN: It’s tricky, man- Because I would like everyone to be well-read individuals who think about the media that they access and have a fuller understanding of what makes us who and what we are as a culture, I mean, that’s the dream-

But at the same time I acknowledge that there are people who don’t care a whit about any or all of that.

And with so many people who enjoy poetry and the arts, while those are debatably important parts of society, what happens when they need to find work? How many playwrights can any single country sustain?

GORDON: My response would be “how many playwrights are there actually out there?”

EVAN: I think there’s a difference between the actual number, and how many individuals would actually like to be a part of that number.

GORDON: Touché, but we can blame certain jobs being glorified and others suffering from unwarranted contempt.

But let’s move on. College. Your college- what’s it look like?

EVAN: A thorough exploration of the ideas that created Western civilization, the one most of us live in today, because it’s extremely important to observe our origins before we can look at our present and then ahead, after that.

A strong emphasis on writing with the reason that without the ability to properly communicate our thoughts how can we even really fully think them to begin with.

GORDON: Sounds to me that you’re still leaning more towards the side of academia.

EVAN: Well, like we’ve discussed, I have a slight bias. And I suppose we haven’t really defined the question as far as the purpose of college.

GORDON: My take would a combination of both sides, with the end goal being application. We’re talking about the study of English for the purposes of applying the principles in same, either in writing or screenplays or entertainment or communication of some kind.

I feel this would allow for all the creative and academic elements while keeping the whole process grounded. No ivory towers.

EVAN: I don’t think my take discounts the possibility of lining up with what you said, but that’s a really good description of how college could and maybe should be.

That being said, we are actually overtime.

GORDON: You wanna talk about drugs and culture next time?

EVAN: I think at some point we could hand this back to the viewers, actually. We’ve really gotten a handle on this whole E&GT. I’m just not sure when or how to do so.

GORDON: The readers are slack-jawed cattle who would eat their own shoes if we told them to.

EVAN: I should probably edit that out of the final post.

GORDON: Nah, we can let ’em vote. My subject would be Drugs and Culture.

EVAN: Mine would be . . . um . . . huh. About SNL. How to fix SNL.

GORDON: Nice. Let it be so.

EVAN: Tell the nice people to have a good Wednesday, Gordon.

GORDON: Have a good Wednesday, Gordon.

EVAN: And don’t forget to vote, readers! Thanks for putting up with my co-writer!

Shame Day: Rebranding

In the latest batch of lectures offered through the ISO’s [International Socialist Organization] annual Socialism conference, there is a speech regarding the issue of post-modernist philosophy. While the title and speaker escape me, as does the majority of the lecture, one particular line stood out to me, and it went a little something like this:

How do you prove a post-modernist wrong? Drop him in the middle of the ocean and tell him that his petty and self-imposed definitions are the reasons he’s drowning.

Now that’s not exactly how the line went- but that’s pretty much the gist of it. The whole point of the speech was to point out the flaw in post-modernism, that while we do tend to make problems for ourselves with our adherence to self-imposed definitions (you can hear a lot of this reasoning used in the whole debate over sexual orientation), there are nevertheless certain inescapable truths regarding our situations that can’t be overcome by changing our attitudes. Your refusal to adhere to any preconceived notions of health doesn’t stop cancer from killing you. An oncoming train doesn’t care one way or the other if you choose to accept society’s standards.

All of that’s just to say: perspective isn’t everything; some facts are simply immutable; which brings us to the topic of this fine Shame Day.

Rebranding.

I recently came across this collection of shots taken from a Family Guy episode.

As much as you can rail on the show, you have to admit that every once in a while it manages to make some pretty clever points. Obviously the joke here is that we have a pretty twisted double-standard in this country. Simply paying for sex is prostitution, but add a camera and a few loose titles and you suddenly have a completely legal act. Pretty much nothing has actually changed, and as ridiculous as it is, this idiotic mentality is actually taking sway.

You may have heard of the rather clever bars in Minnesota (and England, though I can’t confirm the Brits) circumventing anti-smoking laws by declaring their patrons to be actors, and their cigarettes/cigarillos/pipes/cigars/etc. to be props. Obviously this isn’t actual theater, but because the law prohibits smoking in some situations but not in others, the bars can pretty easily get around the issue (which, by the way, I applaud them for). This isn’t meant to be an example of this mentality going wrong, just an example of it being used (even if somewhat sarcastically). But don’t worry, the uglier side of this is just ahead.

You may also have heard of cadmium, a toxic chemical sometimes used in paint, being used in the making of Shrek glasses sold by fast food empire McDonald’s (though other companies were complicit as well). Upon being discovered, many of these companies simply rebranded their products as being “adult collector’s items,” the FDA having separate standards for acceptable cadmium levels in products geared towards adults. Obviously these items are not “adult collector’s items” and would still wind up in the hands of kids, but hey, what do these guys care? They can get away with it by ducking through this little definitional loophole.

That even goes for the commander-and-chief, who drew fire (rightly so) from most every side of the political sphere when he, to reduce the embarrassment of collateral damage from drone-strikes, simply expanded the definition of militant to include anyone within the bast radius of the strike. There are inner-party members of IngSoc who would call that “a bit much.” I mean, think about it. The single most powerful individual on the planet has declared that the weapons of his country have something that resembles a cross between the logic of a four year old and the papal bull of inability. “We only kill terrorists, we killed that twelve-year old, therefore, we killed a terrorist. High-fives all around.”

My view of pretty much everything the president does

Look, rebranding can be sleazy, but this is simply insane. Naming a fish a bird will not result in different results when chucking it off of a roof. Some things simply are. A smoker is a smoker, cadmium is toxic, and a dead kid is only ever a dead kid.

And that’s just a shame.