Tuesday, July 27, 2010
I'm currently watching a special on the Branch Davidian cult and the subsequent siege of the Waco compound. It's amazing what kind of power one person can hold over others. There must be some form of virtuosity involved on Koresh's part that I, myself, could never see as being possible. I understand that most people can't, in all honesty, think for themselves and, generally, want something to believe in, but the lengths that they will go for belief is almost profound. To take the word of a common man is fine in normal circumstances, but when they claim to be a direct line to and the mouth piece of god? Being a skeptic and an atheist I would never be able to buy that line, but apparently others took it all gladly and asked for more. Credulity is rampant in times like these, and I find situations like this to be evidence of that. To think that people can actually believe someone that tells them that they are your direct channel to the afterlife is incredible in itself. It seems that P.T. Barnum was right when he (allegedly) coined the phrase "There's a sucker born every minute."
I remember when Waco happened. We discussed it thoroughly in Naval Science. I was a Sophomore in high school and, up until that point, I had never really seen that kind of undeniable power put upon any individual, let alone a group of individuals. I was too young to remember the Jonestown Massacre. The Waco incident wouldn't be the last time I would witness such events on the news, either. I remember Marshall Applewhite and the Heaven's Gate mass suicide only four years after Waco. These people and their End Of Times prophecies: they feed on the weak-minded among us. But of course, judging by the standards of modern television, there are a lot more weak-minded people than most would like. If you look up Heaven's Gate on YouTube you'll find a vast array of Marshall's "sermons". The look in his eye is not what you would have gotten from Koresh. Koresh was utterly convinced with himself, and you can see it in his eyes. There is no doubt that he believes in what he's saying, and there also seems to be an eerie calm about him. He's not the wild-eyed lunatic that Marshall was. Marshall's insanity is undoubted. According to Wikipedia (which may or may not be reliable: you be the judge), he voluntarily committed himself to a psychiatric institute in 1972 for "depression and hearing voices". He also claimed to be the reincarnation of Christ. Delusions of grandeur abound...
I wonder how many of the prophets that claimed divinity were nothing more than raving, cortexually-warped, head-cases. Now THAT is the real question.