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FAQ: Is the CoV a cult?
« on: 2002-07-31 05:40:12 »
FAQ: Is the CoV a cult?
Revision: 1.2B (Full mark-up)
Author’s notes for revision: This message was (with minor editing) originally posted to the mail list of the Church of Virus on 2002-04-20 under the subject "Re: virus: Eugene Leitl disses Hermitish markup"
1.1 Updated 2003-07-08 to reflect the URL of the archive of the IRC forum discussions
1.2 Updated 2003-07-23
Title has been modified to reflect the FAQ status of this post
Abbreviated Copyright Notice
Copyright (C) The Church of Virus, 2002. All rights reserved. Unlimited distribution permitted in accordance with the terms of the Full copyright notice below.
A comparison with the Church of Virus to an accepted definition of a cult to support why the CoV cannot be regarded as a cult organization.
People being introduced to the CoV. As a resource for members of the CoV describing it to other people.
Table of Contents
Author’s notes for revision
Abbreviated Copyright Notice
Table of Contents
Introduction to the Church of Virus
Definition of a cult
Comparison of the CoV to a cult
Conclusion: No, the CoV is not a cult
Full copyright notice
FAQ: Is the CoV a cult?
First allow me introduce you to the Church of Virus.
Virus is ...
- a forum for rational discourse
- a memetically engineered atheistic religion
- a synthesis of religion and evolution
- the best possible conceptual framework for living and thinking
- a neo-cybernetic philosophy for the 21st century
- Darwin's dangerous idea out of control
- an extended phenotype of the Virion Council
We have a clearly defined Purpose or Goal
And an equally clearly defined set of "virtues," The 3 Virian Virtues: Reason, Empathy, Vision and "sins," The 3 Senseless Sins: Dogmatism, Apathy, Hypocrisy The Church of Virus is a collaborative project; and those who subscribe to our ideas are invited to consider joining us on the Virus BBS. From the above we can conclude that: A Virian is someone who uses rational cognition to recognize, create, host, and propagate successful and beneficial memes.
Virus was originally created to compete with the traditional (irrational) religions in the human ideosphere with the idea that it would introduce and propagate memes, which would ensure the survival and evolution of our species. The main advantage conferred upon adherents is Virus provides a conceptual framework for leading a truly meaningful life and attaining immortality without resorting to mystical delusions.
Before examining the question of whether we are a cult, a better understanding of one additional word might be useful. The word is "Belief." Belief: Belief can only occur where acceptance is not compelled, for if acceptance is compelled, then belief is not required to accept that thing. Belief is thus the acceptance of some thing as being provisionally true where:
- contradictory evidence exists which throws doubt upon or compels the rejection of the thing being accepted as truth.
- insufficient evidence exists to compel or suggest acceptance of the thing as truth.
As such belief is generally either dogmatic or hypocritical or both, and as such is rejected by the CoV as being senseless.
Now, the question arises, is the CoV a Cult?
Borrowing the definition of a cult from the Skeptics Society (From Skeptic vol. 2, no. 2, 1993, pp. 74-81 available on-line at http://www.skeptic.com/ (Unfortunately not a site designed to encourage citation)), we find that they describe a cult as follows. A cult may be characterized by:
- Veneration of the Leader: Excessive glorification to the point of virtual sainthood or divinity.
- Inerrancy of the Leader: Belief that he or she cannot be wrong.
- Omniscience of the Leader: Acceptance of beliefs and pronouncements on virtually all subjects, from the philosophical to the trivial.
- Persuasive Techniques: Methods used to recruit new followers and reinforce current beliefs.
- Hidden Agendas: Potential recruits and the public are not given a full disclosure of the true nature of the group's beliefs and plans.
- Deceit: Recruits and followers are not told everything about the leader and the group's inner circle, particularly flaws or potentially embarrassing events or circumstances.
- Financial and/or Sexual Exploitation: Recruits and followers are persuaded to invest in the group, and the leader may develop sexual relations with one or more of the followers.
- Absolute Truth: Belief that the leader and/or group has a method of discovering final knowledge on any number of subjects.
- Absolute Morality: Belief that the leader and/or the group have developed a system of right and wrong thought and action applicable to members and nonmembers alike. Those who strictly follow the moral code may become and remain members, those who do not are dismissed or punished.
Now, knowing what a cult is, let us compare this to the Church of Virus. Before doing so, it is worth reminding ourselves that our "articles of affiliation" are simply that anyone working with us towards our goals, eschewing the "senseless sins" and aspiring to exemplify the "virian virtues," is welcome to be a member of the Church of Virus. So, with a shared basis of understanding, let us examine the CoV against the hallmarks of a cult.
Veneration of the Leader: Excessive glorification to the point of virtual sainthood or divinity.
The Church of Virus does not have a "leader", indeed, it is not really lead by anyone. We have members who are more (and less) active, and within those, some whose advice is greatly valued, and others who are largely ignored. Anyone rational prepared to put in the effort can achieve fame (or notoriety). Individuals are valued - or not - according to what they say and do. It is difficult to "venerate a leader" in a society where the leadership is essentially the group itself, with guidance from those who are most prepared to expend effort on its behalf.
Inerrancy of the Leader: Belief that he or she cannot be wrong.
The Church of Virus eschews all dogma, and embraces the scientific method. We reject beliefs, and accept that everything we think know is at least provisionally falsifiable. We enjoy discovering errors, because it is through discovering error that we advance in our understanding. Thus we do not believe that anyone is inerrant, we know to the contrary.
Omniscience of the Leader: Acceptance of beliefs and pronouncements on virtually all subjects, from the philosophical to the trivial.
Aside from the already discarded concept of "a leader", the membership of the CoV is free-thinking enough, and value their forum sufficiently, to rip apart and spew out the pieces of anyone proposing a dogma.
Persuasive Techniques: Methods used to recruit new followers and reinforce current beliefs.
Persuasion is limited to defining a consensus. People joining the CoV are welcomed, and over time, any beliefs held by "memebers" will be dissected by the community.
Hidden Agendas: Potential recruits and the public are not given a full disclosure of the true nature of the group's beliefs and plans.
Our archives hold all of the discussions held on the CoV including discussions in the official IRC channel (#virus on irc.lucifer.com) at Chat Logs. Having dealt with belief already, as far as plans are concerned, they are typically discussed on our BBS and while individuals may advocate "additional agendas" it is up to the membership to accept or reject such issues. The CoV advocates truth in advertising, partly because this is so unusual as to be memetic in its own right.
Deceit: Recruits and followers are not told everything about the leader and the group's inner circle, particularly flaws or potentially embarrassing events or circumstances.
Not having a formal leadership, this issue does not arise. Speaking "from authority" is regarded as a logical error and is invariably responded to with deserved derision.
Financial and/or Sexual Exploitation: Recruits and followers are persuaded to invest in the group, and the leader may develop sexual relations with one or more of the followers.
While the CoV is currently heavily subsidized in money and time by a few (and additional assistance would not be taken amiss), we do not seek investment into the group by members or potential members, aside from their consent to be rational and their time to examine our goals for themselves in order to make a meaningful decision to work towards our goals.
Virians as a group do not hold any specific sexual mores as being more valid than others. Virians can almost certainly be found holding and advocating any position you can imagine - from the missionary position to "anal necro rape." If sexual relations occur between members, that is their choice and one imagines that they have formed an opinion on it based on an ethical position common to those engaging in such relations. The Church of Virus does not define what its members should or should not do.
Absolute Truth: Belief that the leader and/or group has a method of discovering final knowledge on any number of subjects.
This has already been dealt with above. Virians don't "believe", don't accept "authority" as grounds for acceptance, and don't have a leader. On the other hand, as in the scientific method, we do value "collective validation" (i.e. the opinion of other Virians) as a means to ensure that our opinions and understandings are rational. Rationality involves accepting that "Absolute Truth" does not exist, that everything is dependent on a perspective. Gödelian incompleteness and Popperian falsifiability together necessitate that outside of a formal system of limited application, a "truth", to have any measure of rational support, must by necessity, always be provisional, incomplete and falsifiable, in other words, there must always, at least hypothetically, exist some evidence which would permit that supposed truth to be rejected. This implies that outside of formal systems, the truth of a thing is not an absolute, but encompasses a range of probabilities which will have varying truth values (i.e. from "false" through "insufficient evidence to adduce a truth value" to "true") depending on the evidence for or against such a thing.
Absolute Morality: Belief that the leader and/or the group have developed a system of right and wrong thought and action applicable to members and nonmembers alike. Those who strictly follow the moral code may become and remain members, those who do not are dismissed or punished.
"Absolute Morality" is no more rational than "Absolute Truth" and if anyone were to be daft enough to propose such to the membership of the CoV, the howls of derision would follow them into the sunset. It is worth taking the time to examine The Gator Fate to comprehend how complete the derision is likely to be.
As we have seen the CoV has none of the classic hallmarks of a cult, at least by this "skeptical standard."
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Discussions with David Lucifer and many others.
[ FAQ: Why the Church of Virus is a Religion ]
[ FAQ: Epistemology, Axioms, Reality, Consciousness, the Universe and Everything ]
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