Published: Saturday, April 6, 2013

How to start your own cult

op01EVERY so often, one needs to step aside from the chaotic hurly-burly of modern life, quieten one’s heart, and focus on deep matters of the spirit, or, as we scientific types like to say, “evil wacko cults.”

As you know, brave Katie Holmes rescued her innocent little girl from Tom Cruise’s weirdo cult and retreated back to the modeling community, a nice, safe world where women with severe eating disorders earn money by striding down catwalks with pineapples on their heads. Wait. Mr Cruise’s weird cult sounds way more sane.

Still, a reader whom I shall not name tells me he was tempted to join Scientology after seeing Mr. Cruise walk up the outside of the Burj Dubai skyscraper in a Mission Impossible movie.

I informed the reader that if he actually believes what he sees in the movies, he’ll be a very happy Scientologist.

But I urged him to consider Asia’s homegrown equivalent to Scientology, a newish religion called Happy Science, which sends me press releases. Happy Science promotes itself by making astonishingly bad movies, and is about to launch two new ones this summer. “Final Judgment” is an action movie in which China invades Japan but rescue comes when a New Savior is born.

The second is a feature-length anime cartoon in which Japan is attacked but salvation comes when a New Savior is born.

If you asked these guys to make a TV ad for soap powder, it would say: “Buy this soap powder! And by the way, let’s watch together as a New Savior is born!”

Happy Science started in 1986 when banker Ryuho Okawa (yes, a new savior) told the people of Japan that he was the reincarnation of Buddha and his wife the reincarnation of Aphrodite.

People just laughed and told them to lay off the sake. No, they didn’t. This being Asia, thousands of people signed up.

The cult went through a bad patch last year when Buddha and Aphrodite had a fight and got divorced. But Mr. Okawa seems to have got his groove back, according to his latest press releases. Astonishingly, Happy Science is doing quite well, with buildings or offices in the US, Asia, Australia, etc.

The Happy Science founder is currently wowing people by revealing the addresses of celebrities after they have died. I’d like to see the Pope do that.

“Currently Beethoven lives in the lower area of the Bodhisattva Realm of the 7th dimension in the Spirit world,” Mr. Okawa says. Charles Darwin is in “Abysmal Hell”, which is pretty bad, but not quite as bad as “Deepest Hell”, the present address of Frederick Nietzsche.

At first, I wondered why a philosopher should be in the bottom part of hell. But then I remembered that Nietzsche once said: “God is dead.” Mr. Okawa took that as a personal insult.

What’s the difference between a cult and a religion? This question comes up every time I mention a cult, so may as well deal with it here.

Historians say there is no difference except age. Every human has a world view, and people tend to cluster around shared views. So Buddhism, Christianity, moustache-worship, veganism, Star Trekism, Apple products addiction, atheism, etc., etc., all started off with minority groups of individuals with enthusiasm for non-standard beliefs: ie, all were cults. Then interest in their ideas spread.

Over centuries, behavioural evolution selects the ones that fail to enhance adherents’ lives and disposes of them. So moustache worship disappeared, Star Trek-ism and Happy Science have not yet graduated to the grade of “mainstream world view,” but some of the others have. Longevity is the deciding factor.

I was disappointed to hear this. I quite fancy starting my own cult, but don’t want to wait several centuries for it to qualify as a mainstream belief system. But then again I can’t think of any guiding principles except that everyone should wear big pointy hats and the main ritual should involve extreme violence to watermelons.

Dinosaurs were huge fluffy beasts, NatGeo reports. Fossils unearthed in China show that along with their sharp claws and two-ton bodies, they had soft, pretty feathers, “gorgeous to look at but dangerous to approach.” For some reason this puts me in mind of Thai women.

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