By Peter Fredson
If I claim that I had seen Big Foot, there would probably be a goodly number of people who would believe me. If I were to claim that a space ship beamed me up, and that little green aliens with big slanty eyes examined me there would be a number of people who believed my story. If I stomped down some corn, wheat or grass in circular patterns and claimed that aliens had come at night to visit us, how many people would believe me? Gullibility is one of the hallmarks of believers and is world-wide, so probably I could start my own cult by claiming some sort of connection with supernatural activity. Of course, some people might call me weird, crazy, loony and might even try to commit me to a mental institution.
So suppose I changed my story to seeing Jesus, in white robes, who preached a tender sermon to me, telling me that I had been chosen to spread his word and show love to everyone. How many people would believe me? Would I be eligible to start my own church, to raise money in his name, to hold healing sessions, and start my own television program? After all, did not someone recently say he saw a 750-foot- tall Jesus who told him to raise a certain sum of money or he would be "called home?" And did not some True Believer actually come up with the money? Who could disprove this story?
If I claimed to see St. Peter, an angel, a demon, the Virgin Mary, Buddha, Krishna, Thor, Quetzalcoatl, who could disprove the claim?
Asserting a claim is sufficient for some people who see angels, fairies, demons, and other intangible usually invisible entities, and they have started many a religion by simple assertion and sticking to their claims. After all, if a President can lie about weapons of mass destruction and stick to his lie thru daily repetition and have millions of fans believe him, why cannot any shyster, con-artist, or faker compete successfully in this world of True Believers in superstitious supernatural nonsense?
We have thousands of evangelists begging for money, for Jesus, to help God, and gullible masses send them their hard-earned dollars which are spent on expensive clothes, cars, planes, homes and high-living. We know that neither Jesus, nor God, will ever see a thin dime of any money raised in their name. We know that absolutely, positively. But we still have the dear old little ladies who save every penny for food and medicine being enticed to send seed to the televangelists, to the prancing dancing bible-thumping parsons who promise heaven or a good return on the money.
We know there are faith-healers who heal people with incurable diseases and ailments, such as cancer by simply clapping them on the forehead and invoking some invisible intangible inerrant omnipotent omnipresent being, then flopping their arms overhead and shouting "Hallelujah. Be Praised. You are CURED."
You would think that some Administrative Bureau dealing with health would investigate the claims, wouldn't you? You would think that if there are truly miraculous cures we would have no need for doctors, or medications, or hospitals. Just let a preacher clap people on the forehead and away goes Parkinson's, cancer, phlebitis, gout, arthritis, kidney failure, and all other ailments known to date. Isn't it strange that no official investigation of claims was ever made? Yet, if people want to import cheap medicine from Canada, they are met with the argument that the medicines might not be safe, so the medications are prohibited from entry for people on very limited incomes. Any claims of great economic benefit are dismissed because of the extremely influential drug lobby with True Believer higher administration officials.
Suppose I went up into the mountains around California for 40 days and nights and came back with some stone tablets containing a host of proverbs and words saying that Mugabooga commands everyone to wear hats made of aluminum foil and clothing made of burlap. Suppose I said that I was inspired by Mugabooga himself, and that he carved the words with his very fingernails. And that he sat with me and showed me some secrets of creation. How many people would believe me? What ever possessed them in bygone days to believe anyone who claimed this outlandish occurrence?
If a movie star can claim to have gone through multiple reincarnations, from Queen of Egypt to Anne Boleyn, who can disprove her?
A few years ago an elderly black man said that he was God himself. He called himself Father Divine. Very few white people believed him because they think God is white. But he acquired quite an audience of black people, with a few whites, and he is still remembered today by them as God Almighty. Something like a black George Burns! Emperor Haile Selassie has become a minor deity for Ethiopian Rastafarians. Julius Caesar crowned himself and proclaimed himself a god. Why not? George Bush dressed up in military uniform and strutted like a hero with an accomplished mission. Lots of people still believe him.
How can you tell a lunatic from an avid True Believer? Answer: you can not.
They both believe in unbelievable processes and situations. They both claim to prove the improbable. They both reject any disbelief in their claims and vociferously defend their assertions, even to the point of violence.
I wonder if the gullible innocents of Heaven's Gate ever made their rendezvous with the mother-ship? And where in space are they now located? Have they passed Jupiter and Titan, gone out of our solar system, met St. Peter? How many other people believed their story and are even now preparing for their own ascension into Heaven? Let us hope they all know how to play harps.