Anybody heard of this book?

A friend lent it to me today and told me to read it. No connection to Mormonism at all.

On the back I found the following “Five Warning Signs of Corruption in Religion.” They are:

  1. Absolute Truth Claims
  2. Blind Obedience
  3. Establishing the “Ideal” Time (no idea what they mean here)
  4. The End Justifies Any Means
  5. Declaring Holy War

Let me be clear….I’m not accusing our faith/church as being evil, or as being more “guilty” on these 5 counts than any other religion today is. Still…I thought it was interesting, and worth noting….if for nothing other than to always help keep things in check.

Anyone read the book and have thoughts/comments?


  1. jordanandmeg June 16, 2006 at 11:34 pm

    I can see how the author would cite a claim on absolute truth as a criterion for a corrupt religion. People wouldn’t be fanatic and dangerous if they were not sure of themselves.

    But I hope the author did not imply it would be impossible for a religion to claim absolute truth. If there is a God in heaven then some things are definitely true and others not. Citing the fact that a claim on such predisposes to corruption doesn’t mean that absolute truth should not be sought and proclaimed when found.

  2. Kirk Faulkner June 17, 2006 at 1:08 am

    Jordan and Meg, I want to get to know you better. Do you have an email where I can reach you? My email is

    I like you guys. I want to introduce myself to you.

  3. Derrick C June 17, 2006 at 3:51 am

    From 2 Nephi 28:

    3 For it shall come to pass in that day that the churches which are built up, and not unto the Lord, when the one shall say unto the other: Behold, I, I am the Lord’s; and the others shall say: I, I am the Lord’s; and thus shall every one say that hath built up bchurches, and not unto the Lord—

    4 And they shall contend one with another; and their priests shall contend one with another, and they shall teach with their learning, and deny the Holy Ghost, which giveth utterance.

    11 Yea, they have all gone out of the way; they have become corrupted.

    12 Because of pride, and because of false teachers, and false doctrine, their churches have become corrupted, and their churches are lifted up; because of pride they are puffed up.

    31 Cursed is he that putteth his trust in man, or maketh flesh his arm, or shall hearken unto the precepts of men, save their precepts shall be given by the power of the Holy Ghost.

  4. Christopher King June 17, 2006 at 8:25 am

    I haven’t read the book, but it seems these five warning signs should apply to man-made religions. I wouldn’t want to tell God, were He to decide to set up camp among us, that He shouldn’t claim to teach the absolute truth, require blind obedience, etc. In fact, I don’t think I’d feel comfortable telling him how to run things at all. Were He to do something I disagree with, I’d probably try and reconsider my own thinking before telling God He just doesn’t get it. As far as man-made religions are, I’m guessing the book is full of wise counsel.

  5. Mike Thomas June 17, 2006 at 9:01 am

    I own it. It’s a good book. The author is an ordained Baptist Minister and a professor of religion at Wake Forest University. I wonder what would happen if he wrote this book as a mormon and a professor at BYU?
    The last sentence of the first paragraph reads: “It is somewhat trite, but nevertheless sadly true, to say that more wars have been waged, more people killed, and these days more evil perpetrated in the name of religion than any other institutional force in human history.”
    Not much of stretch at all but so many of the faithful would be deeply offended if asked to ponder and/or pray about such an idea. I thought that way long before George Carlin so sardonicly stated: “if you read history you realize that God is one of the leading causes of death…Hindu’s, Muslims, Jews, Christians all taking turns killing each other cause God them it was a good idea. The sword of God, the blood of the Lamb, vengeance is mine, millions of dead motherfuckers…All because they gave the wrong answer to the God question. ‘You believe in God? No. Dead! Do you believe in God? Yes. Do you believe in my God? No. Dead! My God has a bigger dick than your God!’ ”
    John, this book has plenty of connections to Mormonism unless you don’t think that Mormonism is a religion?
    If that is the case, maybe it’s a cult/alternative form of government/for-profit corporation(under the guise of religion). I am referring to your statement “No connection to Mormonism at all.” As you read, trust me, you will find plenty of unsettling parallels to Mormonism.

  6. Beijing June 17, 2006 at 10:18 am

    I haven’t read the book but I think the “ideal time” refers to Utopia, Millennium, etc.

  7. Wondering No More June 17, 2006 at 10:45 am

    I read the book a couple of years ago — about the same time I withdrew from all activity in the church. As I was completing the book, my family attended a multi-day family reunion (on my wife’s side) at a Bear Lake resort — Ideal Beach. None of our family knew at that time that we were in the process of withdrawing from the church. I remember that I was sitting on a couch in a common area of the condo reading the book, and my sister-in-law sat down next to me and asked what I was reading. I told her that the book was written shortly after the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, and that the book talks about how religion can be evil. I then flipped the book over to the back cover and showed her the 5 signs that the author lists of an evil religion. She read all 5, and then commented, “The first 4 sounds just like our church.” Mind you, she was/is a True Blue Mormon. I was stunned.

    Wondering No More

  8. Abner Doon June 17, 2006 at 1:20 pm

    The first three certainly apply to McConkie (or “current institutional”) Mormonism. #4 might have been the case for a few extremists like Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, and certainly some “lying for the Lord” still goes on today, but I don’t think it’s terribly prevalent. Fortunately #5 hasn’t ever been part of the LDS ethos. Assuming these criteria do make a religion “evil”–evading only one or two of the five points doesn’t leave much for LDS to cheer about.

  9. Proud Daughter of Eve June 17, 2006 at 1:25 pm

    The first four do not sound like our church. The first one perhaps, with the claim of truth. Yes, we have a prophet to whom God speaks. Thank God! No we do not believe in blind obedience. James 1:5 anyone? And I have never, in all my 28 years in the church, heard anyone utter anything like “The Ends Justify Any Means.” I don’t know what the author meant by “an ideal time” either.

    You know, I don’t buy that malarky about religion being the most destructive force on earth. HUMANS are the most destructive force on earth. We seem to have xenophobic tendencies. Religion is merely one way we define people as “other.” It’s our reaction to “Others” that causes war. That’s why Jesus told us to love our neighbors as ourselves; we need to reach beyond “the natural man” and its unsavory tendencies to our spiritual potential.

  10. Doc June 17, 2006 at 1:40 pm

    When secularism becomes evil
    1)- Reason and logic are the only legitimate avenues to truth
    2)- Blind obedience to Those whose reason and logic seem to overpower yours.
    3)- Giving up on God as a lost cause because of the evil he allows in the world.
    4)- With the Right application of logic morality is largely dictated by reason/i.e. Ends justify means particularly when dealing with the illogical or religious.
    5)- Declaring War on religion (goes through steps
    i) No religion in politics
    ii) secular state
    iii) Dehumanizing terms for religiosity (zealot, Cult,
    psychologically oppressed, bigoted, hate filled.
    opiate of the masses, etc.
    iv) outlawing of religious practices
    v) xenophobia of the religious leading to genocide.

    I think what the book is describing is a human trait. True adherence to the principles taught by ChristLOve of your fellowman, humility, focusing on your faults no others, value of souls great in the sight of God, intrinsic value of God’s childrennecessity of obtaining self witness, forgiveness, etc al etc

  11. Proud Daughter of Eve June 17, 2006 at 1:40 pm

    Sorry to double-post but I thought of another point. Why should “absolute truth claims” be a litmus test for evil in a religion? No relition says that it knows nothing. Religion is, practically by definition, a world-view. It’s how people judge, categorize and most importantly EXPLAIN the workings of the world around them. A religion what said merely “We think there is a god” or “killing may be bad,” would be a swiftly dead religion.

  12. Doc June 17, 2006 at 1:51 pm

    I apologize as well for the double post. I think point one is more dangerous in terms of leading to pride more than anything else. Having absolute truth is not bad in and of itself. Belittling others, thinking less of them, well that is.

  13. CraigBa! June 17, 2006 at 7:24 pm

    It is somewhat trite, but nevertheless sadly true, to say that more wars have been waged, more people killed, and these days more evil perpetrated in the name of religion than any other institutional force in human history. – Mike Thomas

    Ummm, Mike, is there something you’re forgetting?

    Explain to me, if you can, the religious motivation behind these events:

    1) Nazi aggression, including the holocaust
    2) The Armenian holocaust
    3) The Ukrainian genocide
    4) Japanese aggression, including the rape of Nanking
    5) Stalin’s murderous reign
    6) The Khmer Rouge
    7) The Rwandan genocide

    We just lived through one murderous century, and not many of those murders had much to do with religion. In contrast, the “Inquisition” which we so often hear referred to as the apex of evil killed, on average, about 3 people per year – and the Inquisition was instituted at the insistence of the government, not the Church.

  14. CraigBa! June 17, 2006 at 7:30 pm

    Oh yeah – I forgot Communist China.

  15. Gunner June 17, 2006 at 8:51 pm

    I have not read the book but I do have a comment on number 5.

    Does number 5 have to be a doctrinal holy war or an institutional view of holy war? I belong to a Mormon forum that is firearm/preparedness based. On that forum the talk leads so much to prophetic utterances by GA’s about the final days, and the elders of zion coming from the hills and saving the constitution and establishing zion. They have skirted the term holy war a lot because of the abuse of that term by fundamantalistic religions, but it hangs there for all to see.

    There has been enough talk about end times that I would say that number 5 is in the background, but it is there.

    Number one I feel is true. There are SOME absolutes in all religions. Number 1 is rather vague and likely points to all religions.

    Number 4 is just human nature.

  16. Mike Thomas June 18, 2006 at 3:09 am

    1) The first paragraph of your post is directly from the book. Just want to clarify because it seems as if you are quoting me.
    2) 1-7 all occurred within the last 100 years, human history reaches even further than the Inquisistion.

    If you are referring more specifically to the Spanish Inquistion. If I’m not mistaken, King Philip was in charge of the government and a devout Catholic. If no church, do you think there would have been an Inquisition? Back in those days the Popes and Kings shared power and didn’t bother with separating church and state. All the government officials had to do was offer religious freedom to its subjects.

    Why did you leave out the most obvious example of the Crusades? Inquisition, only about 3 a year. But how many died, and are still dying, in war over control of the ‘Holy Land.’?

    You state, “not many of those murders had much to do with religion,” so you admit that they had something to do with it and you are correct. Hitler made an agreement with the Catholic Church (Vatican Concordat) that at least indirectly, helped with the mass murder of Jews. Pope Pius (not sure of the number) was aware of what was going on and did next to nothing.

    Communism is a form of religion, worship of the state. Very dangerous.

    Don’t even get me started on Dubya.

    I see no reason to think that religious government/theocracy would act more responsibly than the secular mass murdering governments of the last 100 years. It is easy for the Pope to come out against war because he doesn’t have the armies some of his predecessors had.

    I’m not familiar enough with the details of the 2,3,6,7 to comment.

  17. Doc June 18, 2006 at 7:53 am

    Fascism is a worship of the state. The basic premise being the motherland holds prominence over any of its individual citizens.
    Communism has more to do the using the state (after violent overthrow to place the workers in charge) to create a utopia (by force)in which no class is above another and all things are held in common. It was a social experiment that failed because it the nature and disposition of almost all men as soon as the get authority as they suppose to immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.

  18. CraigBa! June 18, 2006 at 10:19 am

    Mike Thomas,

    I put your name after the quote because you were the one who quoted it, and because you quoted it so approvingly.

    Communism is a form of religion, worship of the state. Very dangerous.

    Well, OK. And I suppose soccer hooliganism is “worship” of sports. And drug dealers “worship” the weed or the free market. You are using circular logic here: religion is fanaticism, anything that involves fanaticism is worship, and worship is religious.

    The problem with saying that “religion” is responsible for all these horrible things in the world is that religion is frequently little more than an excuse for other problems, mostly dealing with greed or perhaps a need for survival. The Crusades were mostly a defensive war – and as much about one “people” against another as about one religion against another. In the Fourth Crusade, after all, the “Christians” sacked and looted Constantinople, a Christian city. And my list of all those 20th Century massacres only demonstrates my point: religion isn’t needed to find a reason to slaughter people. Get rid of religion – NONE* of these massacres were over religion – and people will still find a reason to slaughter each other.

    * Even the slaughter of Jews in the holocaust (or in the older pogroms going back centuries) was more about envy of Jewish economic success than about religious differences. Hitler’s extermination was emphatically areligious: he was killing people because of their race, which is why even people with only one Jewish grandparent were being murdered.

  19. CraigBa! June 18, 2006 at 10:24 am

    It was a social experiment that failed because it the nature and disposition of almost all men as soon as the get authority as they suppose to immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.

    No. The problem is that Communists are thugs, period. Can you name me a single “idealistic” Communist you would like to liver under the rule of, even before they attain power? Sure, power can corrupt, but these people are corrupt before they ever get in sight of power.

  20. RRR June 18, 2006 at 4:56 pm

    The signs listed from the back of the book remind me, although vaguely, of something I read months ago, that at the time really hit home (from Ron Hogan’s interpretation of the Tao Te Ching)…

    When people lose touch with Tao, they start talking about “righteousness” and “sanctity”.

    When people forget what’s true, they start talking about “self-evident truths”.

    When people have no respect for one another, they start talking about “political correctness” and “family values”.

    When the nation is unstable, people start talking about “patriotism”.

    I haven’t read the book, but it sounds like an interesting read (for me, truly understanding the role of religion with regard to history was an integral part of my spiritual journey and my process of finally coming to terms with my beliefs, or lack thereof).

  21. Doc June 18, 2006 at 8:26 pm

    Hi. You are probably correct in stating communist are generally corrupt before getting in power. It likely has to do with the whole instigation by force. Unrighteous dominion is never a good thing. I’ve never read Karl Marx, but I’m told his works seem much more benign than the finished product was. I’m also told Lenin was a humanitarian, though I could not verrify this for certain. Stalin was the one cause everything to spiral into complete and utter tyranny.

  22. CraigBa! June 18, 2006 at 11:33 pm


    We’re probably not too far apart on this. The problem I see with your argument is that it only explains the USSR. Why were communists such jerks in every other country they ran? In China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Cuba, Nicaragua, Angola, Chile, Venezuela? I realize that, except for Chile and Venezuela, all these people took control by force. But there are all sorts of these people out there still. Of course, it’s not fashionable to call them “communists” – only a fanatical, McCarthyist, John Birch conspiracy theorist would do such a thing – but they’re out there.

    Pay a visit to ANSWER, International Socialist, or any college Women’s Studies/Black Studies/Chicano Studies department (amongst *many* others) and you don’t have to dig very deep to find it. And I can assure you, if you read their work, that you would know that you would never want to be governed by them – no matter how peacably they were able to attain power.

    But we are digressing a bit much from the “religion is evil” topic, I suppose.

  23. MichealD June 19, 2006 at 5:20 am

    Hello CraigBa,
    I am from Germany and have thought a lot about the connection between Nazi aggression,including the holocaust, and religion.
    My opinion is that there are more connections between them than you might suppose at first sight.

    Here are a few connections:
    a) Anti-semitism and Anti-judaism
    On the surface, Hitler did not seem to be interested in religion much.He was anti-semitic, that is., against the jewish PEOPLE. However, for him to persuade a whole nation, he used anti-judaistic tendencies (i.e. hostility towards the jewish RELIGION) which were common in that day much around the world. Antijudaism can be shown to start in times when the Gospels were written, because Christianity became a competitor to Judaism, when the religion developed from a Jewish sect to a total new religion (cf. the abolition of the Mosaic law for new Christians) Just one quote from the Gospels:
    Joh 8:31 Then said Jesus to those JEWS(!) which believed on him: …
    Joh 8:44 “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do.”
    It’s not relevant how you interpret these verses, it is relevant that these verses can be interpreted antijudaistic. There are many more verses like these, e.g. the description that the Jews are responsible for Jesus’ death.

    b) Nationalsozialism as a religion
    You can also interpret National sozialism as a religion. While someone pointed out that this point could be overstressed, here are a few parallels between Nationalsozialism and Christianity:
    – The existence of an absolute evil: Satan vs. the Jews
    – The existence of a saviour: Jesus vs. Adolph Hitler
    – The existence of religious symbols of worship: the cross vs. the picture of Hitler hanging in all rooms
    – The killing of the Jews as a “holy task”
    In his book “Mein Kampf”, Hitler several times refers to the bible when describing his task to save the world from the spiritual evil, which he thought the Jews to be.

    c) The 1933 State-church contract between Nazi Germany and the Vatican had a great influence in how the catholic church as a moral institution related to the inhumane acting of this horrible regime: While Germany granted the Vatican privileges like the collection of a church tax (which is collected unto now), the Vatican pleaded not to engage in any political activities (in other words: complain about mass discrimination followed by genocide). The Vatican clearly knew about the danger and problematic ideology of Hitler, as a 1934 investigation of two Jesuits, which is now available in the Vatican archives, proves. However, this paper, which contained all the ideological points in which Hitler disagreed with the teachings of the Church was not published for political reasons, as forces within the Vatican wanted to see Hitler as an ally against Communism. As a result of these political considerations, the moral duty of Christianity to resist such a horrible slaughter was suppressed to a large degree, and as a result, around 6 million Jews died in the Holocaust.

    Interestingly, National socialism and Christian conservatives share the same enemies. Why is this so? Communists, Homosexuals, Jews,…

    Those are just a few points which come to my mind.

  24. CraigBa! June 19, 2006 at 12:31 pm

    You make some very lucid points, MichealD. However, I’m still going to stand by my earlier post. The branding of “religion” as evil is wrong on way too many points.

    Mike Thomas claimed that Communism, an openly atheistic ideology, was a “religion” because it involved “worship of the state.” You do the same with National Socialism because they have a few traits in common: an ultimate adversary, iconic symbols, and a messianic figure. I think that what this really proves is that when you refer to “religious fanaticism” that maybe the adjective and the noun are reversed. Maybe it should really be “fanatical religionism.”

    I don’t have oodles of free time, so I’ll summarize my remaining points:

    1) Blaming the Catholic Church for the holocaust because it *knew* about it is simply unfair. The Nazis and their sympathizers are the only ones to blame – and for the most part, the institution of the Church, were not sympathetic.

    2) Certainly some people collaborated with the Nazis because they hated Jews for religious reasons. All that proves is that, in any large scale movement, you can’t generalize a single motive for all people. Different people are motivated for entirely different reasons. Nevertheless, whether during the holocaust or other Jewish persecution, most of it was motivated by factors unrelated to religion. Primarily economic differences, but there were other non-religious reasons, too. In many places, like the Ukraine, Jews were frequently employed as tax collectors. That is not a job to make you popular.

    3) The point of my all-star list of 20th Century killing sprees was to demonstrate that the fanatical vein we often credit to religion is actually something fixed in the human psyche. If you take away religion and the fanaticism still appears, then you’ve tapped into something independent of religion. It seems that in any given number of people, some of them will veer towards violence and hatred. They will use religion to justify it, or they’ll use anything else. Even “purely” “religious” slaughters, like the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, are about more things than religion.

    4) Most importantly of all, religion is an aggregate. It refers to a broad sweep of ideas and beliefs, having only a few characteristics in common. Mormonism, Unitarianism, and Pentecostalism are all very different faiths, even though they’re all of Christian descent. That doesn’t even get in to some groups, like Moslems, who seem to get into trouble no matter where they are. Even within a single religion you run across very different people.

    So, no, “religion” is not evil. It’s perfectly legitimate to ask why some rleigions, or religious people, sometimes become evil; but when someone says that religion has caused ‘more murders than any other institutuional force in history’ you should be dubious of their motives. They’re ignoring way too much history.

  25. Mike Thomas June 19, 2006 at 3:06 pm

    Brigham Young is an example of a communist that many people have and would (in say next life or if God he were sent back down to earth to rule again) choose to live under.
    Why all the focus on the 20th century? The quote concerns ‘human history.’
    What about all the history you ignore. For example, one of your arguments, you skipped straight to the Fourth Crusade! Is it responsible to make an argument using the Fourth Crusade without discussing the first three?
    Crusade #1: Pope Urban II sent an army (because God told him it was a good idea) to take the ‘Holy Land’ from the ‘infidels’ without provocation, discuss.

  26. CraigBa! June 19, 2006 at 6:09 pm

    Brigham Young is an example of a communist that many people have and would (in say next life or if God he were sent back down to earth to rule again) choose to live under.

    1. First and foremost, people believed he had divine authority. Not so with Lenin, Stalin, et al.

    2. People had the option of leaving. The United Order was not coextensive with the nation. You didn’t need papers to leave Utah for Colorado or California.

    3. The United Order was substantially different from Communism.

    Why all the focus on the 20th century? The quote concerns ‘human history.’

    The real question is whether religion is ultimately responsible for the violence that has happened. Sure, violence has been committed in religion’s name, but in many cases that was just a convenient cover for other motives. Like conquest, innate desire for violence, or even survival.

    The 20th C. proved that you don’t need “religious fanaticism” to have mass slaughter. Take away the religion and it’s still there – and probably even worse than before.It’s also easier to determine motives when you look at recent events. Events that are centuries old have far fewer reliable sources to determine their exact motives. I could have gone past the 20th C. if I had chosen. The Civil War took 500,000 lives, but it wasn’t about religion. Nor was the bloody French revolution or the Napoleonic wars. I could go on and on and on (and sometimes it seems like I do…)

    What about all the history you ignore. For example, one of your arguments, you skipped straight to the Fourth Crusade! Is it responsible to make an argument using the Fourth Crusade without discussing the first three?
    Crusade #1: Pope Urban II sent an army (because God told him it was a good idea) to take the ‘Holy Land’ from the ‘infidels’ without provocation, discuss.

    Ummm, define “without provocation?” In 732, Charles Martel defeated an Arab Muslim army led by Abdul Rahman less than 200 miles from Paris. What was an Arab Muslim army doing in Northern Europe? A few years before that they had conquered Spain. What were they doing in the Iberian? Or North Africa and Egypt? Or the Holy Land, for that matter? Those lands had all once been Christian. I wouldn’t call that “without provocation.” The Muslim expansion of the 7th-8th centuries may be defined as religious, or it may have simply been Arab nationalism fueled in part by religion. Abdul Rahman wasn’t Spanish or even Moroccan by birth – he was from Yemen. Was he conquering as a Muslim, or as an Arab?


    If I tell you that I took a walk in the woods and came across a large, furry animal, how do you interpret that? I could be referring to a moose or elk, which is usually uneventful. Or I could be referring to a cougar or grizzly bear. Entirely different story. The same holds true for religion. To say “religion” is responsible for violence is to say that, if I get mauled by a grizzly bear, that I was hurt by an animal. Don’t blame a jackrabbit for the actions of a grizzly bear. Religion is a very broad concept.

    Ultimately whether “religion” is responsible for violence depends on your view of the world. Is mankind capable of creating utopia? Of immanentizing the eschaton? Or do we have to muddle through and do the best we can, because we are imperfect beings?

    If you prefer the former, then you’re going to blame any violence on its proximate cause – which is occasionally (though by no means mostly) “religion.” If you favor the latter view, as do I, then you understand that people are violent and hateful by nature, and, without religion we’d find plenty of other excuses to murder our fellow man.

    So is ‘religion responsible for more violence than anything else?’ Maybe. But if I could sum it up in one sentence, I would ask: Would the world really be more peaceful without it? Looking at the last century, that’s a hard argument to make.

  27. ElGuapo July 6, 2006 at 10:16 pm

    I read parts of this book at a Barnes & Noble recently. Yes, the point about claims of absolute truth raised an eyebrow for sure. I think the idea has merit, but it’s probably more of a prerequisite to the others, not necessarily a problem by itself. By the way, the book gives an interesting retelling of the Jim Jones episode.

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