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Monday, May 17, 2010

Is This a Religion?

I saw this documentary, Inside North Korea, on the Nat Geo channel recently and I was startled to see how the people of North Korea worship their dictator, Kim Jong Il. They call him the "Dear Leader," and worship him as divine. As I was watching this, I was struck by the similarity between the people's actions and what goes on in some evangelical churches. The narrator, Lisa Ling, says that the devotion to the Dear Leader is because of generations of indoctrination. Why do these people worship Kim Jong Il? Because they have been indoctrinated (brainwashed) to do so. Their devotion to him is their religion. This illustrates again why I think religion is ultimately very dangerous. It causes people to become fanatical. It causes them to do things that otherwise rational people would not do. Watch this short video below beginning at 2:55.


  1. The punch line is that religion is explicitly outlawed in Korea. Perhaps one day America will be enlightened enough to protect our citizens by banning religion, like all of the enlightened countries on this list:

    Speaking of North Korea, check out Vice Magazine's series of short video reports from inside North Korea. It has to be the weirdest country on earth:

  2. Joshua,

    I certainly hope not and I don't expect religion to ever be banned in the US. I am a libertarian and I am in favor of a very limited gov't. My point in posting this was that "religion," whether it goes by that name or not, is in my opinion dangerous because it can lead people to do things that are totally irrational. Of course this does not apply equally to all religions but the history of the world is replete with people doing a lot of terrible things because they thought their Leader or god wanted them to.

  3. It's interesting how little we know about S. Korea. You might find the BookTV segment from B.R. Myers interesting. He wrote "The Cleanest Race: How North Koreans See Themselves - And Why It Matters"

  4. Joshua:

    What, like the country mentioned in the opening paragraph?

    State atheism has been defined by David Kowalewski as the official "promotion of atheism" by a government, typically by active suppression of religious freedom and practice.. This definition is different from a secular state (e.g.: the United States of America), where the state (de jure) declares no official religion and is (de jure) neutral with regards to all religions.

    I've got news: the First Amendment protects Christians, too. That's kind of the point. By not promoting any religion/generalized belief system, then the government can allow anyone to practice or not as they so choose. A neutrally secular state works to everyone's advantage.

    Actually, one of the best contemporary defenses I've ever seen of a secular state comes from Phil Yancey's What's So Amazing About Grace? You might want to consider reading it, since he makes the point that when church and state are combined the church ends up serving the needs of the state, not the other way around.

    The fact of the matter is, though, that the First Amendment's Establishment Clause is the most enlightened possible statement a government can make about the nature of the state's relationship to the church. Anything else invites an intertwining of religion and governance that's ultimately harmful to both sides.

  5. That's a chilling and disturbing clip (as are most aspects of N. Korea). Do you draw any distinction between general religious belief and cults? As in, do you see a difference between freely chosen and held religious conviction as opposed to the authoritative, manipulative, abusive, and controlling behavior normally associated with cults?

  6. Hmmm, South Korea is home of the Unification Church of Sun Myung Moon, and also the largest local church in the world, the Yoido Full Gospel Church, with 800,000 members.

    Is there a trend here in the psyche of the Korean people? A need to worship a divine figurehead? Just asking . . .

  7. Dan,

    Thanks for the question. Yes, I do draw a distinction. Obviously not all people hold their religious beliefs with the same fervor. The extremists have truly been brainwashed and are capable of doing just about any atrocity in the name of their god. They cannot tolerate any dissent.

    Those who are more tolerant in their religious beliefs are not dangerous in the same way as the extremists. In their case, I think the danger is that they are dealing with problems and issues using a placebo. This hinders finding the real answers. They are in my opinion diverting resources (both money and manpower) away from areas that could be much more useful for man and the world. For example, the Southern Baptist Convention owns $42B worth of property in the USA. Many of these buildings are used once or twice a week. Could not that money be used in a much more beneficial way to help society? Southern Baptists gave roughly $13B last year in their offerings. Less than 1/2 of 1 percent went to help feed the hungry. The great majority of the money went to pay mortgages and salaries, IOW, to prop up the institution.

    There is a new Hindu temple less than 10 miles from where I live. It cost $23M and is made completely of marble. I went on a tour of the building. I wanted to ask the people there, why they don't care about all the poor folks in India. $23M would feed a lot of people in India.

  8. Ken,
    I wholeheartedly agree that religious institutions systemically misuse (and abuse) their fiscal and social resources. Particularly distasteful (to me, at least) is when such misuse is actually held up as positive, such as in the advancement of prosperity theology.

  9. ::Looks at the video::

    Man, that's an odd flavor of cheesecake...