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Reading a news item about Glenn Close and Rose McGowan who were reared in a cult group made me think of a cult group that I had known. In the US it goes under the name The New Testament Church and it had its beginning in Sri Lanka when it was called Ceylon. The group Ceylon Pentecostal Mission was a mongrel church alright. They drew from so many sources, Armstrongism, Church of Rome to name a few. They lived and preached two different things. They chose ministers from members who were to practice celibacy like the Catholic Church. They preached grace and yet made works as their cardinal virtue. They like pharisees made outward observance of prayers, fasts abstaining from alcohol, tobacco as proof of their holiness. They claimed they were totally separated from worldly affairs but always found members whose filthy lucre bankrolled their faith life. They insisted on their recruits full immersion baptism and speaking in tongues. The latter was the means to ensure their hook on the congregation. If anyone wanted to leave the two elders or pastors would buttonhole and ask him or her by wanting to leave they must have been speaking tongues ( not of Holy Spirit) but of devil.
2.
They knew how to control minds of their congregation in spending hours in shrieking and blabbering. They made tattle-telling a virtue and made attempts at believers to ferret out how others lived at workplace or at home. They came between husbands and wives in telling ‘the weaker vessel’ what to watch out in the other. Sunday service for example the joy of Christian spirit was the ‘holier-than- thou’ Yahooism. Let me explain what it is. Gulliver speaks of Yahoos in his travels and these were brutish in body and mind. In these Pentecostal group there were believers who made a virtue of cheeseparing and leanness in their spirit as ticket to Zion! The Mission called special meetings whenever they could and these were mind numbing sessions as waiting for the Spirit. Innocuously enough they made him/her toe the line having got control over his/her emotional and mental reserves.
In order to be counted as part of the group how members lied through their teeth before taking communion!How they made some pillars of the community shiver in their pants! Those who drank(social drinking) skipped it and made virtue of their lack of consideration for others by crying and making a show of tears only to repeat the same ad nauseum.
The Mission made the members read only passages they wanted them to know- Nothing more. Most of the elders are iliterate whose knowledge in the Scriptures ( as far as I know) was limited and calculated to serve the purpose. Typical of Catholic church that they discouraged private interpretation!They rearranged emphases of OT and New Testament in order to reimpose the rule of Levites in the Church! They discouraged reciting Lord’s prayer giving reason it was only for the nominal Christians! ‘After this manner pray ye’ (Mt.6:9). In their view there was to be a hierarchy and they were to be part of the select few 144,000 souls meant for Zion!
3.
The pastors and elders are those who have left all or burned the bridges after them so to speak. All their sermons are taped and sent for screening. They are put charge of ‘faith homes’ anywhere and are liable to be sent on short notice to anywhere decided by the Mission HQ. There are fat and lean areas the latter being assemblies that do not have many members to provide for their necessities. One may judge what it would mean. In such a controlled atmosphere with sisters and brothers bound by invisible handcuffs the Alwin controversy was bound to happen.
Tailpiece:
At the time of marriage I joined this group. I was a sunday school teacher and wrote hymns etc. For me reading Bible was not merely for reading. ‘Truth shall make you free’ it is said. One fine day I had enough or rather I saw their pernicious doctrine and decided to quit. The pastor asked if I was speaking in tongues under Holy Spirit or was it something else. I admitted I was mistaken and that made me get out of their hold.
I have never even come across these rascals after that day. It was as phony as my marriage which had to stop somewhere. The Pentecost Mission must be still around and never more I got entangled with the group.
benny

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What is Art ? It is the mirror to life.
Primitive art thus has certain characteristics that mirror the culture of the artist. In May or June 1907, Picasso experienced a “revelation” while viewing African art at the ethnographic museum at Palais du Trocadéro. Picasso’s discovery of African art influenced the style of his painting Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (begun in May 1907 and reworked in July of that year.) In the early 20th century African artifacts were being brought back to Paris museums in consequence of the expansion of the French empire into Africa. The press was abuzz with exaggerated stories of cannibalism and exotic tales about the African kingdom of Dahomey. It was in this climate of African interest that Picasso would look towards African artifacts as inspiration for some of his work and it makes no difference that he was an outsider reinventing artistic impulses of his life and the times into art. It is recognizable and and the life of a nameless primitive artist is interpreted according to canons of art. Whereas in the hands of Joseph Conrad the African interest would focus altogether on the mistreatment of Africans in the Belgian Congo. Heart of Darkness is a literary work of exceptional quality that can transcend the narrow boundaries of time and place to be equally at home in another time and place. Francis Coppola set it in Vietnam with equal success and called it Apocalypse now.
Art as the mirror of life. This is what Art can achieve. It gives life thousand faces and the mirror is telling the truth each time. Only that the beholder need to remember the emphasis is laid in each case differently. Truth is absolute and only God can define what it is. So let us not assume to know what it is.
When Patriarch Jacob wrestled with angel or saw a ladder reaching heavewards we need to accept Truth is set in a certain form that does not vitiate the narrative or the underlying veracity. Does it touch some familiar chord in you? If you have in your life wrestled with good impulses with all the might and sought a blessing from the Highest the story of Jacob cannot remain alien to you. It does not mean if you succeeded or not. The Scriptures holds up the mirror to your life so as to elicit certain feelings in you. When you respond to it in a positive manner the Word has achieved its purpose.
According to Moslem tradition Prophet Mohammad was carried at night by a fabled beast Al-Buraq to the presence of Angel Gabriel. We need to remember that truth is sometimes stranger than fiction simply because we have no way of knowing Truth in its perfection. Art as I said earlier gives Truth a human tongue. It is thus we get the best out of the Word. For that matter how is that we have the Hand of Fatima in many versions ranging from Egyptian, Hebrew and Christian traditions? It is life given a certain symbol naming it as good omen or charm and so on. It is to be treated as such and not make undue fuss over it. Instead some silly fellows want to impose their own nonsense as truth. They pose as the Watch and Ward staff for God. Among Jews and Moslems alike there are those who want to make worshippers think in the way they think. What makes them think they know the truth? Wahhabism would try hard to make Islam ‘pure’ but would require plenty of money to stuff down the throats to make it digestable! In sacred and secular art also you find such misguided fellows. Shakespeare had been bowdlerized by some and yet Shakespeare lives on preeminent above such ignoble souls.
For me art must serve life. When we see Truth in its perfection words of human artifice shall fail since we ourselves shall be part of that Absolute quality.
benny

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In the evolution of man instinct came to play a vital role since Nature fine-tuned his physiology to address the question: flee or fight? The adrenalin rush of your body in sensing danger is of different make up than when you need to think seriously what is the best course for your future. In the latter case time is on your side and you may weigh pros and cons to arrive at a conclusion. This is what thinking means. You brain is not merely reptelian brain but has also complex rewiring to help you in the process. Speech, visual and other faculties are controlled from locations that can be mapped and studied. Thus nature has provided certain initial back-up to which your life among men and animals add ancillary support. The thinking machine Head has its adjunct the Heart with which your feelings reinforce your life experience. Basic emotions fear and pleasure have myriad shades of meaning to make your life significant. This is what makes man different from animals.
Such a man also has rational and irrational side to which I only need to point the wakeful state and the dream state. If you go by the latter irrational side alone you are a menace to the society and you might require supervision and medicine to keep you from harm. The point is the head should remain in its place and consequently the heart must hold its own. The relationship of State and religion is like this.
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In order to understand how poorly religion and state can hold together we only need to look at the Church of Rome.
In the Early Church the bishops elected for the office were considered as shepherds of the flock. Following the stricture of Jesus to Simon Peter they were to cater to the spiritual needs of the early converts who were mostly marginalized in society or were actively hounded out by Rome as a threat to the empire. As seized of their charge the early bishops did not dabble in temporal matters. The serious threat to the religion actually came from the time Constantine made Christianity as the state religion. He made it not out of any genuine conviction but as a matter of state policy. Such explosive mixture could only delay but not prevent the march of events. The empire was doomed to collapse and it did happen. With it the primary aim of the Church was seriously compromised.
After the fall of Rome during the “Middle Ages”, the papacy was influenced by the temporal rulers of and surrounding the Italian Peninsula; these periods are known as the Ostrogothic Papacy, Byzantine Papacy, and Frankish Papacy. Over time, the papacy consolidated its territorial claims to a portion of the peninsula known as the Papal States. Thereafter, the role of neighboring sovereigns was replaced by powerful Roman families of which I may merely mention the Tusculan Papacy.
From 1048 to 1257, the papacy experienced increasing conflict with the leaders and churches of the Holy Roman Empire and the Byzantine Empire. The latter culminated in the East-West Schism, dividing the Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox Church. While Popes were politicking the Church underwent through serious spiritual crisis among believers that came in the form of the Black Death. With such a calamity for the suffering flock the Church failed to address their spiritual confusion. They believed it was the divine chastisement and came from God. ( The Black Death wiped out nearly two thirds of Europe and the Pope sat out through this terrible times in Avignion,France. No wonder the survivors came out with a new idea of making their present life count. The Carpe Diem effect. This led to Reformation and the Enlightenment in course of time. Initiative in trade and commerce had passed from Italy to Germany, England and Holland.)
The Church was split by politics rather than any theological disagreement that quickly escalated from a church problem to a diplomatic crisis that divided Europe. Secular leaders had to choose which claimant they would recognize that showed the lie that the authority of the Pope came straight from St. Peter. The schism was ended by the Council of Constance (1414–1418).

Islam also suffers from the same tragedy. Petro-Islam is out and out buying converts who fit neither here nor there. Their head is a counting machine while their heart is far from obedience to their God.
P.S: The tragedy of putting the cart before the horse , mistaking the heart for the head led to the decline of the Church and Italy never survived the Black Death. In a manner of speaking the medieval mindset still plagues them. Unification of Italy was hampered by Papacy and the present economic crisis owe partly to it. We see conjugation principle at work here.
benny

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Wahhabism is a religious movement developed by an 18th century Muslim theologian Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab (1703–1792) from Najd, Saudi Arabia. He advocated purging Islam of what he considered to be impurities and innovations. Wahhabism is the dominant form of Islam in Saudi Arabia. Abd-al-Wahhab was influenced by the writings of Ibn Taymiyya and questioned classical interpretations of Islam, claiming to rely on the Qur’an and the Hadith. He attacked a “perceived moral decline and political weakness” in the Arabian Peninsula and condemned what he perceived as idolatry, the popular cult of saints, and shrine and tomb visitation. Wahhabism is often used interchangeably with Salafism. They are considered ultra conservative and heretical by their detractors.
The Wahhabi teachings disapprove of veneration of the historical sites associated with early Islam, on the grounds that only God should be worshipped and that veneration of sites associated with mortals leads to idolatry. Many buildings associated with early Islam, including mazaar, mausoleums and other artifacts have been destroyed in Saudi Arabia by Wahhabis from early 19th century through the present day.
According to Riadh Sidaoui it is an Islamic doctrine which is based on the historical alliance between the political and financial power represented by Ibn Saud and the religious authority represented by Abdul Al-Wahhab, the doctrine continues to exist to this day thanks to this alliance, the financing of several religious channels and the formation of several sheikhs. Perhaps in not so distant future it will be seen how this purportedly charitable institutions bankrolled the recruits who were sent from third world,- from Malappuram District in Kerala to Malaysia, to support the Jihadist elements in the Afghanistan. Their covert mission was nothing less than bringing down the financial might of the USA.
International influence and propagation
According to observers such as Gilles Kepel, Wahhabism gained considerable influence in the Islamic world following a tripling in the price of oil in the mid-1970s and the progressive takeover of Saudi Aramco in the 1974-1980 period. The Saudi government began to spend tens of billions of dollars throughout the Islamic world to promote Wahhabism, which was sometimes referred to as “petro-Islam.” According to the documentary called The Qur’an aired in the UK, presenter Antony Thomas suggested the figure may be “upward of $100 billion”.
Does money corrupt? The Saudis have spent at least $87 billion propagating Wahhabism abroad which goes under the guise of charity. Some of the hundreds of thousands of non-Saudis who live in Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf are recipients of its largesse and the fervent converts to Petro-Islam and are intended as carriers of their message.
What connection, if any, there is between Wahhabism and Jihadi Salafis is disputed. Natana De Long-Bas, senior research assistant at the Prince Alwaleed Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University, argues: the militant Islam of Osama bin Laden did not have its origins in the teachings of Ibn Abd-al-Wahhab and was not representative of Wahhabi Islam as it is practiced in contemporary Saudi Arabia, yet for the media it came to define Wahhabi Islam..’ (note: . Karen Armstrong, former US “emissary” to Islam, states that Osama bin Laden, like most extremists, followed the ideology of Sayyid Qutb, not “Wahhabism”)
Noah Feldman distinguishes between what he calls the “deeply conservative” Wahhabis and what he calls the “followers of political Islam in the 1980s and 1990s,” such as Egyptian Islamic Jihad and later Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. While Saudi Wahhabis were “the largest funders of local Muslim Brotherhood chapters and other hard-line Islamists” during this time, they opposed jihadi resistance to Muslim governments and assassination of Muslim leaders.’ By the same token it could be argued that wahhabism of Ibn Saud family did not forbid if global Jihad were set in motion against the Christian west.
benny

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Man is a social animal and as such thrust of his progress can be measured in terms of the society, created by him.
If it is created measure of his success can also be determined in how sociable he has become. In the evolution of our ape-ancestors to the modern man we hold no distinction between Australopithecines, Homo erectus (which inhabited Asia, Africa, and Europe) and Neanderthals (either Homo neanderthalensis or Homo sapiens neanderthalensis) (which inhabited Europe and Asia). We carry however in our genome something of those groups that have died out. We are humans and our achievements are part of our common experience. In short despite of evolutionary twists and turns of our origins we bear the bequest of those who did not make it. Family beginnings of modern man go far back as 400,000 and 250,000 years ago. In terms of biology we humans do not demonstrate in the least any particular divine favor that a Christian, Jew or a Muslim claim as special for himself.
But looking at our social structure we see we are fragmented in the way we have chosen to show our identity in terms of our race, religion and economic status. We went about creating a family of man and became a creature of our own conceit. Perhaps this paradox is ever in our consciousness and that would explain the perennial popularity of Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein.
We choose the society that we can relate to and not other way around. In accommodating members with various life experiences and interacting with them we infuse vitality into it. We broaden our horizons as a result. Nature has divised ways which would seem to follow this formula: like repels like; and opposites attract. History is replete with instances where societal collapse owed to the failure in heeding Nature’s warning. Inbreeding of Pharaohs in Egypt sowed their eventual demise and one of the serious consequences of Islam lay in the cultural stagnation. Dar-ul Islam or Global Islam means that all nations would be ruled under an Islamic theocracy, which is simply a national government set up under the rule of Allah’s divine sanction as expressed in the Qur’an and Shari’ah law. It did not happen. Historically Muslims failed to make their initial successes in world conquests to something permanent or significant. Mongol Invasion of the 13th century and Black Death had curtailed their mission. In their falling back to their old ideas a way of life they were comfortable they denied further growth. Compare between the period of Ottoman Empire at the height of its glory during the reign of Suleiman the magnificent, and the decades prior to the WWI (when it was called the Sick Man of Europe) is a sad commentary of a society that had run of ideas. It ceased to grow.
ii
Islam as a religion can be authoritatively dated and the flight of Mohammed is a historical date. Let us consider Islamic tradition relates Prophet Muhammad in 610, when he was 40 years old first heard the voice of the angel Gabriel, who recited to him the word of God, today written down in the Muslim holy book, the Qur’an, meaning “recitation.”
It is significant that Muslims believe that what Gabriel told Muhammad came directly from God;by the same token the Jews believe the promise of Israel was given by God to Patriarch Abraham indicating the extent of their promised land.
One cannot be true and the other false.
Islam says that the message was similar to those received by the early Hebrew prophets: that God is one, he is all-powerful, he is the creator of the universe, and that there will be a Judgment Day when those who have carried out God’s commands will enjoy paradise in heaven, and those who have not will be condemned to hell. As we have seen, these ideas were also part of the Zoroastrian religion. When certain ideas are common experience of man there must be something to it. But in the way these ideas are coined and given value we need to be clear that such value system is man-made and as currency holds limited use. The correspondence principle states that if one man’s revelation is accepted as true on the same scale every belief must be accepted as true.

Man who dreams the impossible is everywhere persecuted. It is not the dream but how that dream is realized for the betterment of society is the main point. Prophet Mohammed fled to Medina and his dream was put into reality by his followers. How one would make a case for the Mormon sect, which was also founded on a spiritual experience?
This sect was founded in 1830. The Mormon pioneers were members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as Latter-day Saints, who migrated across the United States from the Midwest to the Salt Lake Valley in what is today the U.S. state of Utah. At the time of the planning of the exodus in 1846, the territory was owned by the Republic of Mexico, which soon after went to war with the United States over the annexation of Texas.

The journey was taken by about 70,000 people beginning with advanced parties sent out by church fathers in March 1846 after the assassination of Mormon founder Joseph Smith made it clear the faith could not remain in Nauvoo, Illinois — which the church had recently purchased, improved, renamed and developed because of the Missouri Mormon War setting off the Illinois Mormon War. The well-organized wagon train migration began in earnest in April 1847, and the period (including the flight from Missouri in 1838 to Nauvoo) known as the Mormon Exodus is, by convention among social scientists, assumed to have ended with the completion of the First Transcontinental Railroad in 1869. Whether preposterous or wholesome values that a religion may contain man is ready to forsake all for his liberty of conscience. It is the golden key which opens the door to the promised land.
How can Moslems expect others to accept their religion as perfect when they themselves did not keep the promise? History of mankind shall be strewn with the conflict of liberty of conscience and pursuit of pleasure whatever the term ‘pleasure’ may mean. History is not concerned with motives or dreams of man but how their dreams were realized. When the children of Islam fell back from the shared experience of the rest of the world they nullified even what was within their reach to be at the vanguard of progress.
Dreams of a prophet like Joseph Smith or Brigham Young will please many but for me to accept these under coercion would be veritable nightmare. (To be continued)
Parts of this essay was taken from my book Principles of History. B
benny

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‘A new survey of Americans’ knowledge of religion found that atheists, agnostics, Jews and Mormons outperformed Protestants and Roman Catholics in answering questions about major religions, while many respondents could not correctly give the most basic tenets of their own faiths.
Here is a news item from AP news service:
‘Forty-five percent of Roman Catholics who participated in the study didn’t know that, according to church teaching, the bread and wine used in Holy Communion is not just a symbol, but becomes the body and blood of Christ.

More than half of Protestants could not identify Martin Luther as the person who inspired the Protestant Reformation. And about four in 10 Jews did not know that Maimonides, one of the greatest rabbis and intellectuals in history, was Jewish.

The survey released Tuesday by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life aimed to test a broad range of religious knowledge, including understanding of the Bible, core teachings of different faiths and major figures in religious history. The U.S. is one of the most religious countries in the developed world, especially compared to largely secular Western Europe, but faith leaders and educators have long lamented that Americans still know relatively little about religion.’
Marx rightly said ‘Religion is the opium of the masses.’ Why is it an opiate but for the hereafter? The brutes who cannot think for themselves to better their lot and get what rightly belongs to them, they let themselves instead to be led by the hand. If the hereafter is their destination it stands to reason they would know well what are the rules of engagement while they have time. Now is day of their salvation, in the simple act of living,making their home and community thrive in the work of their hands and in the trust,patience and in the warmth of their hearts. Evil of religion is only seen in those who haven’t looked beyond their moral instruction and have ceased to put them to practice. No these fools pride themselves in their religion and and deny even the basic tenets that religion demands of them. The golden rule is golden in so many religious belief- systems. But how many do you think observes that rule freely and with pleasure? Religion of hate is where rascals pride in their hate and make a cesspool of misery for everyone else. The Jihadists who sow terror do not mind if the number of their own brethren were lost in the violence as long as their terror brought them media attention. In Israel the conservative Jews will see that the Palestinians their own brethren from Abraham is made to crawl for water, air and shelter. How did these Orthodox Jews get such callous hearts? Simple. Like Pharisees of old their tradition made them careless of their obligations, simple courtesies you owe to your fellow beings. These sepulchers,- white and gilded, hold in their heart religion to animate them.
Why limit to Americans? Ask in other parts of the world what their religion means to them. They shall certainly come up with a harangue of their saints,monks,sanyasin and glorious tradition. You probe them beyond their impasssioned pleas and seek the basic tenets you will see they are no bigger ignoramuses than the Jews and Moslems.
Religion can only be made glorious by your life,love and service in cause of others who may be of another religion or persuasion. You disgrace Allah, Jehovah,God and your prophets by speaking on their behalf and yet distance from their hearts.
benny

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‘The signs of our times must be so bad that we must fashion God in our image. Recently I spent some time with a couple who had come from the US. He said he was all for the GOP and he minced no words to show he abhorred the liberalism that made the American society weak kneed. When I said God must love Americans because one in eight under the Republican Bush were medically uninsured his wife was sure that it was propaganda. She knew the youngsters did not care to insure themselves out of some cock-eyed optimism. ‘In America insurance is alive and kicking.’ Yes from their vehement rebuttals I knew the poor always were to be kicked around. Later we got to talk around the nature of God and His workings. I said,’God must be a liberal to make the sun shine on the good and the bad.’ My American friend pooh-poohed to say,”don’t be fooled Benny,”
Seeing my raised eyebrows he said,’ God is giving the ungodly a taste of hellfire to visit upon them.’ His words had a ring of the Bible and verses he quoted were from the Bible. Only that I didn’t see God whom I had in my innermost being before I knew what was good or bad or worshiped with conscious mind.’ Naturally I had to dismiss his God of his own making and of little worth.
benny

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