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 Rev. Sun Myung Moon is dying - current big cult story unfolding

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Jcbaran

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PostSubject: Rev. Sun Myung Moon is dying - current big cult story unfolding   Sun Sep 02, 2012 11:14 am

Rev. Moon, founder of the Unification Church ("Moonies") is currently on life-support in a Seoul hospital and will likely die soon. He certainly ranks as one of the most notorious / grandiose cult leaders in modern times, claiming to be the only true Messiah in history, amassing a huge multi-billion dollar empire. He literally spent billions of dollars in Washington, DC alone trying to buy influence, affect power, promote his world god-hood and right wing agenda.

I know quite a bit about his organization. A friend of mine was a member in the 70s, got out and became a cult expert.

I will post some articles about this group.

Now, do i think the Moonies compares to the OBC / Shasta or Moon compares to Kennett? Mostly not. Obviously, Moon is an extreme example of authoritarian religious power. But nonetheless, all personality cults share similar attributes, patterns, behavior - big or small. Especially the religious groups / gurus that demand total obedience, adoration, group think and so on. There is a mirror here. No, Moon and Kennett are/were not the same, but there is something to be learned when seeing how these groups and leaders operate.
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PostSubject: Re: Rev. Sun Myung Moon is dying - current big cult story unfolding   Mon Sep 03, 2012 1:33 am


September 2, 2012
Rev. Sun Myung Moon, Self-Proclaimed Messiah Who Built Religious Movement, Dies at 92
By DANIEL J. WAKIN


The Rev. Sun Myung Moon, the Korean evangelist, businessman and self-proclaimed messiah who built a religious movement notable for its mass weddings, fresh-faced proselytizers and links to vast commercial interests, died on Monday in Gapyeong, South Korea. He was 92.

His death was announced on his church’s Web site, which said he had been battling complications from pneumonia, including kidney failure.

Mr. Moon courted world leaders, financed newspapers and founded numerous innocuously named civic organizations. To his critics, he pursued those activities mainly to lend legitimacy to his movement, known as the Unification Church, although his methods were sometimes questionable. In 2004, for example, he had himself crowned “humanity’s savior” in front of astonished members of Congress at a Capitol Hill luncheon.

Mr. Moon was a leading figure in what Eileen V. Barker, a professor emeritus of sociology at the London School of Economics, called “the great wave of new religious movements and alternative religiosity in the 1960s and 1970s in the West,” a time when the Hare Krishna and Transcendental Meditation movements were also gathering force.

Mr. Moon, said Professor Barker, an expert on new religious movements, was “very important in those days — as far as the general culture was concerned — in the fear of cults and sects.”

Building a business empire in South Korea and Japan, Mr. Moon used his commercial interests to support nonprofit ventures, then kept control of them by placing key insiders within their hierarchies. He avidly backed right-wing causes, turning The Washington Times into a respected newspaper in conservative circles.

An ardent anti-Communist who had been imprisoned by the Communist authorities in northern Korea in the 1940s, he saw the United States as the world’s salvation. But in the late 1990s, after financial losses, defections and stagnant growth in the church’s membership, he turned on America, branding it a repository of immorality — “Satan’s harvest” — and repositioned his movement as a crusade for moral values.

As Mr. Moon approached 90, not long after he survived a helicopter crash in 2008, three of his sons and a daughter began assuming more responsibility for running the church and his holdings.

In its early years in the United States, the Unification Church was widely viewed as little more than a cult, one whose polite, well-scrubbed members, known derisively as Moonies, sold flowers and trinkets on street corners and married in mass weddings. In one of the last such events, in 2009, 10,000 couples exchanged or renewed vows before Mr. Moon at Sun Moon University near Seoul.

A Focus on Marriage

Such weddings were the activity most associated with Mr. Moon in the United States. They were in keeping with a central tenet of his theology, a mix of Eastern philosophy, biblical teachings and what he called God’s revelations to him.

In the church’s view, Jesus had failed in his mission to purify mankind because he was crucified before being able to marry and have children. Mr. Moon saw himself as completing the unfulfilled task of Jesus: to restore humankind to a state of perfection by producing sinless children, and by blessing couples who would produce them.

Marriage was a key part of achieving salvation, and for a couple the marriage was as much a commitment to the church as it was to each other.

In a ceremony involving 2,075 couples at Madison Square Garden in 1982, for example, the men wore identical blue suits and the women lace and satin gowns. Mr. Moon was said to have made the matches, based on questionnaires, photographs and the recommendations of church officials.

Often the couples had met only weeks earlier or could speak to each other only through an interpreter. Many had to remain separated for several years, doing church work, before they were allowed to consummate the unions.

Mr. Moon struggled against bad publicity. He was sent to prison on tax evasion charges and accused of influence-buying and of maintaining ties to the Korean Central Intelligence Agency. He denied both allegations. In the late 1970s he was caught up in a Congressional investigation into attempts by South Korea to influence American policy. There were battles with local officials over zoning for church buildings and tax-exempt status.

As his church grew more prominent in the 1970s and ’80s, it became embroiled in lawsuits over soliciting funds, acquiring property and recruiting followers. Defectors wrote damaging books. From 1973 to 1986 at least 400 of the church’s flock were abducted by their family members to undergo “deprogramming,” according to an estimate by David G. Bromley, a professor of sociology at Virginia Commonwealth University and an expert on Mr. Moon. The church denied that it had brainwashed its followers, saying members joined and stayed of their own free will.

Mr. Moon said he was the victim of religious oppression and ethnic bias because of his Korean heritage. Established churches were angered, he said, because they felt threatened by his movement.

“I don’t blame those people who call us heretics,” he was quoted as saying in “Sun Myung Moon and the Unification Church” (1977), a sympathetic account by Frederick Sontag. “We are indeed heretics in their eyes because the concept of our way of life is revolutionary: We are going to liberate God.”

Prominent people were paid to appear at Moon-linked conferences. The first President George Bush did so after he left office. Others, like former President Gerald R. Ford, Bill Cosby, Mikhail S. Gorbachev and Jack Kemp, attended banquets and gatherings, sometimes saying later that they had not known of a connection between Mr. Moon and the organizations that invited them.

Personal setbacks marked Mr. Moon’s later years. In 1984, a son, Heung Jin, died at 17 from injuries sustained in a car crash. Another son, Young Jin Moon, who was 21, committed suicide in 1999 by jumping from a 17th-story balcony at Harrah’s hotel in Reno, Nev. In 1995 Nansook Hong, the wife of his eldest son, Hyo Jin Moon, who at one time was Mr. Moon’s heir apparent, broke from the family and wrote a book characterizing her husband as a womanizing cocaine user who watched pornographic movies and beat her, once when she was seven months pregnant.

Ms. Hong portrayed the entire Moon family as dysfunctional, spoiled and divided by intrigue and hypocrisy. (She also wrote that the church believed that the spirit of Heung Jin had returned for a time in the body of a Zimbabwean man who traveled the world and, with Mr. Moon’s sanction, beat straying church members.)

From early on Mr. Moon was revered by his followers as the messiah, and in 1992 he conferred that title on himself. He also declared that he and his second wife, Hak Ja Han, were the “true parents of all humanity.”

Mr. Moon founded the Unification Church in South Korea in 1954 and began organizing it on a large scale in the United States in the early 1970s. It eventually claimed up to three million members worldwide, but historians of religion dispute that number, estimating a membership of 50,000 at the church’s height in the late 1970s, with only a few thousand in the United States. Membership has been difficult to evaluate more recently; church officials give different estimates and often define membership differently, according to an individual’s level of involvement.

Building an Empire

Mr. Moon’s organizations established connections with African-American religious leaders, and he made forays into culture and education, establishing a ballet company in South Korea and financing a ballet school in Washington. In 1992 an organization with ties to Mr. Moon rescued the University of Bridgeport, in Connecticut, from bankruptcy, pouring in $110 million in subsidies over a decade and taking effective control. Mr. Moon received an honorary degree.

The university’s administration denied that the church had influence, but critics of the arrangement contended that students were being lured into church training with the promise of scholarships, noted that the church had opened a boarding school on campus for members’ children, and said that the church had used the university to import money, in the form of tuition, as well as followers, in the form of the many foreign students who attended.

For a time Mr. Moon lived in an 18-acre compound in Irvington, N.Y., which Ms. Hong described as having a ballroom, two dining rooms (one with a pond and waterfall), a kitchen with six pizza ovens and a bowling alley upstairs. The church owned another estate, Belvedere, in nearby Tarrytown. Farther north along the Hudson River, the church founded the Unification Theological Seminary in Barrytown, N.Y. On its Web site, it sometimes is referred to as “U.T.S.: The Interfaith Seminary.” Mr. Moon’s business ventures in South Korea at one time or another included construction, hospitals, schools, ski resorts, newspapers, auto parts, pharmaceuticals, beverages and a professional soccer team. He also had commercial interests in Japan, where right-wing nationalist donors were said to be one source of financing.

In the United States, Mr. Moon had interests in commercial fishing, jewelry, fur products, construction and real estate. He bought many properties in the New York area, including the New Yorker Hotel in Midtown Manhattan and the Manhattan Center nearby.

At one time or another he controlled newspapers including Noticias del Mundo and The New York City Tribune; four publications in South Korea; a newspaper in Japan, The Sekai Nippo; The Middle East Times in Greece; Tiempos del Mundo in Argentina; and Últimas Noticias in Uruguay. In 2000, a church affiliate bought what was left of United Press International.

The extent of his holdings was somewhat of a mystery, but one figure gives a clue: Mr. Moon acknowledged that in the two decades since the founding of The Washington Times in 1982, he pumped in more than $1 billion in subsidies to keep it going.

The church said its various operations earned tens of millions of dollars a year worldwide.

In their book “Cults and New Religions” (2006), Mr. Bromley and Douglas E. Cowan wrote that according to church doctrine, a member “recognizes Moon’s messianic status, agrees to contribute to the payment of personal indemnity for human sinfulness, and looks forward to receiving the marital Blessing and building a restored world of sinless families.”

Self-Proclaimed Messiah

Sun Myung Moon was born on Jan. 6, 1920, in a small rural town in what is now North Korea, according to his official biography. When he was 10, his family joined the Presbyterian Church. When he was a teenager, around Easter 1935, according to Unification Church lore, Jesus appeared to him and anointed him God’s choice to establish the kingdom of heaven on earth.

A secular education beckoned, and in 1941 Mr. Moon entered Waseda University in Japan, where he studied electrical engineering. Two years later he returned to Korea and married Sun Kil Choi, who bore him a son. In 1946, leaving them behind, he moved to Pyongyang, now the capital of North Korea, to found the Kwang-Ya Church, a predecessor of the Unification Church. He was imprisoned by the Communist authorities, and later said that they had tortured him.

He was freed in 1950 — by United Nations forces, his official biography says — and was said to have walked 320 miles to Pusan, on the southern tip of the Korean Peninsula. There, as the account goes, he built a church with United States Army ration boxes and lived in a mountainside shack.

Despite the centrality of marriage in his developing theology, Mr. Moon divorced Ms. Choi in 1952 (something that was glossed over in the official biography) and the following year moved to Seoul, where he founded the Unification Church in 1954. Within a year, about 30 church centers had sprung up.

Before the decade was out, he published “The Divine Principle,” a dense exposition of his theology that has been revised several times; in her book, Ms. Hong, his daughter-in-law, said it was written by an early disciple based on Mr. Moon’s notes and conversation. He sent his first church emissaries to Japan, the source of early growth, and the United States, and began building his Korean business empire.

Rumors of sexual relations with disciples, which the church denied, dogged the young evangelist, and he fathered a child in 1954. In 1960, Mr. Moon married the 17-year-old Hak Ja Han, who would bear him 13 children and be anointed “true parent.”

He embarked on world tours over the next decade and in 1972 settled in the United States, seeing it as the promised land for church growth. “I came to America primarily to declare the New Age and new truth,” he is quoted as saying in the book “Sun Myung Moon and the Unification Church.”

He took an interest in politics, urging that President Richard M. Nixon be forgiven for his role in the Watergate crisis. Church leaders plotted a strategy to defend the president and held rallies in support of Nixon that drew thousands to Yankee Stadium, Madison Square Garden and the National Mall.

Mr. Moon’s interests expanded into film when a church-linked company backed the 1982 movie “Inchon,” a $42 million Korean War epic notable for bad reviews and the casting of Laurence Olivier as Gen. Douglas MacArthur.

A Litany of Scandals

In the late 1970s, Mr. Moon came under the scrutiny of federal authorities, mainly over allegations that he was involved in efforts by the South Korean government to bribe members of Congress to support President Park Chung-hee. A Congressional subcommittee said there was evidence of ties between Mr. Moon and Korean intelligence, and that the church had raised money and moved it across borders in violation of immigration and local charity laws.

Then, in October 1981, Mr. Moon was named in a 12-count federal indictment. He was accused of failing to report $150,000 in income from 1973 to 1975, a sum consisting of interest from $1.6 million that he had deposited in New York bank accounts in his own name, according to the indictment.

“I would not be standing here today if my skin were white and my religion were Presbyterian,” Mr. Moon said after the charges were announced. “I am here today only because my skin is yellow and my religion is Unification Church.”

He called the case a government conspiracy to force him out of the country.

Mr. Moon was convicted the next year of tax fraud and conspiracy to obstruct justice and sentenced to 18 months in prison. He was assigned to kitchen duty.

As his church’s fortunes declined in the United States, Mr. Moon revised his pro-American views. In a 1997 speech, he said America had “persecuted” him. He also attacked homosexuals and American women.

Mr. Moon and his church largely dropped from public view in the late ’90s and 2000s, but once in a while they attracted attention. In 2001, a Roman Catholic archbishop from Zambia, Emmanuel Milingo, married a Korean woman in a multiple wedding performed by Mr. Moon. The archbishop then renounced the union.

One of the more bizarre moments in Mr. Moon’s later years came on March 23, 2004, at what was described as a peace awards banquet, held at the Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington. Members of Congress were among the guests. At one point Representative Danny K. Davis, an Illinois Democrat, wearing white gloves, carried in on a pillow one of two gold crowns that were placed on Mr. Moon and his wife.

Some of the members of Congress said they had no idea that Mr. Moon was to be involved in the banquet, though it was hosted by the Interreligious and International Federation for World Peace, a foundation affiliated with the Unification Church.

At the banquet, Mr. Moon said emperors, kings and presidents had “declared to all heaven and earth that Reverend Sun Myung Moon is none other than humanity’s savior, messiah, returning lord and true parent.”

He added that the founders of the world’s great religions, along with figures like Marx, Lenin, Hitler and Stalin, had “found strength in my teachings, mended their ways and been reborn as new persons.”
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PostSubject: Re: Rev. Sun Myung Moon is dying - current big cult story unfolding   Mon Sep 03, 2012 1:45 am

One point. Moon's big story was that he and his wife were the "true parents." Adam and Eve were bad, Jesus failed, and he and his wife were the true parents, messiahs. So everyone on the planet, in history, were his children. His followers constantly babbled about "true father" and "true mother." By the way, in the end he only had a few hundred thousand followers - at most - but because he was a master at profiteering from his followers, taking their funds, promising them heaven, he became very wealthy and was able to do a great deal of self-promotion, empire building, and so on.

As this relates to many cultic organizations and authoritarian systems, Shasta and Kennett included, is the principle of infantlizing your members and followers - creating a story, system, practice that turns the guru into the perfect father/mother and makes everyone permanent children - dependent, mindless followers. Do as you are told. Do not question your father/mother. Whatever you do, do not upset your mother. She knows what is best for you and you don't. She is wise, you are confused, deluded. Everything she does is for your own good, no matter how it appears or feels. Bow, shut up, accept. And this system of thought and behavior is not just some temporary "skillful means" but a permanent way of being and living.

Moon was the master of this kind of religious system. Kennett, in her much smaller way, also did a very similar dance. I understand the rationale behind it. In the beginning, in the middle, and in the end, this is not a beneficial dance. It does not lead to liberation. Maybe for a short time, you find some insight from this and in some rare cases, this kind of practice might push you into having a few "spiritual experiences," but this is still a very limited game and in the long run, NOT useful and not the practice of Dharma - in my humble opinion.

The way forward is to become a spiritual adult, not a emasculated child.
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PostSubject: Re: Rev. Sun Myung Moon is dying - current big cult story unfolding   Sun Sep 16, 2012 12:46 am

The wake for a self-styled messiah
Funeral of sect's founder will be as grandiose as his mass weddings
Peter Popham

Sunday, 9 September 2012

The wake of Sun Myung Moon, one of the most preposterous egomaniacs of the post-war world, is well under way this weekend. Tens of thousands of believers are heading to the mountainous headquarters of the Moonies cult in South Korea for his funeral on Saturday.

The ceremony will be on the giant scale long familiar to Moonie-watchers. Last week, work crews were laying a new road to bring mourners to the Cheongshim World Peace Centre where his body is lying in state under a domed glass screen. Memorial altars have been set up in local churches in 150 countries, it is claimed, and tens of thousands of followers are expected to make the trek to the Far East. At least 40 of the church's 1,200 members in Britain will be among them.

Yesterday the church said that 13,000 people, including 3,000 Japanese, had already visited the memorial chapel. Famous for the mass weddings in which thousands of ready-made, mixed-nationality couples from all over the world were spliced simultaneously, the Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity – the term the church prefers to "Moonies" – will not fail to give its "True Father" a worthy send-off.

The electrical engineer turned dock worker turned messianic patriarch died aged 92 on 3 September, but he insisted that his passing should not be a sad occasion – hence the presence of many female mourners dressed in white. "The word 'death' is sacred," his sect's media office quoted him as saying. "It is not a synonym for sadness and suffering. The moment we enter the spirit world should be a time we enter a world of joy and victory." Those left behind, he declared, "should be shedding tears of joy instead of tears of sadness".

Nonetheless, many of the tears shed in the coming days will be sad enough, and mixed with regret will be well-founded anxiety for the church's future. Though only 5ft 9in, Moon towered over the movement he founded, and his claims to messiah status grew wilder with age.

In 2004, he told a grand audience on Washington's Capitol Hill that long-dead emperors, kings and presidents, including Hitler and Stalin, had declared "from beyond the grave... to all heaven and earth that Reverend Sun Myung Moon is none other than humanity's saviour, messiah, returning Lord and parent".

As such, his absence would pose a problem to any organisation, let alone one rent like this one by family feuding and scarred by family tragedy. His widow, Hak Ja Han, the mother of 13 of his 15 or so children, will step into his shoes for the time being – she had been at his side on all the cult's mass weddings and other big occasions for many years – but his eldest son died of a heart attack in 2008 after succumbing to drugs and alcohol. Another son died in a car crash, one in a train crash, while a third committed suicide.

Two others, known respectively as Sean and Preston, are "locked in a legal dispute over property ownership", according to Moonies expert George Chryssides. Sean, Moon's youngest son, known in Korean as Hyung Jin Moon, has become the acceptable young face of the organisation, though while at Harvard he shaved his head, donned a monk's robe and became a Zen Buddhist. He has been the organisation's most senior leader since 2008, and last year was despatched to North Korea to offer condolences on the death of Kim Jong-il. Last week he was photographed at his father's wake clad in a gleaming white hanbok (traditional Korean dress) and gloves and holding a single lily.

Like many new religions, Sun Myung Moon's emerged from a time of national trauma. Born and raised in a rural corner of North Korea, he went on to graduate in electrical engineering at Japan's Waseda University, when Korea was still a Japanese colony. He later served time in a communist penal camp before making his way south and finding work in the port town of Pusan.

Here, in 1954, he built his first church, according to the legend, out of US army ration boxes, and constructed a congregation around an outlandish set of beliefs. He was inspired by a vision that he claimed to have seen as a teenager in which Jesus appeared to him, explained that the crucifixion had prevented him from completing his work, and gave him the task of doing so – spreading his blessings to create a world of faithful, sinless couples and families.

The success of his church was due to Moon's self-confidence and charisma, and also to the way it blended key elements of different belief systems. There was the American conquerors' Christian faith, and the competitiveness and business drive that came with it, but also vestiges of traditional Confucian and Buddhist beliefs. Jesus and the benefits of persecution came from Christianity; the stress on couples and families from Confucius; while Moon's declaration that "the Second Advent and Messiah" – in other words Moon himself – "is the perfect Man who becomes one with God in heart and with whom God can dwell" carries an echo of Buddhist ideas.

But it is the note of untrammelled egomania that shouts the loudest. Once he told Time magazine: "God is living in me and I am the incarnation of Himself. The whole world is in my hand and I will conquer and subjugate the world." In 1976 he said in a speech – recycled last week by the church – "After my death millions of people in the spirit world and here on earth will testify to my deeds, and to what I have done in history... in eternity, I know that my deeds will shine... I intend to... surpass the suffering of all the past saints, so as to not only dwell among them but rise up above them, so that together we can more quickly liberate the suffering souls of the world. Do you understand? It's all part of a heavenly strategy."

The blend of western and eastern elements did nothing to gain him friends in the Christian churches, but proved of irresistible appeal to tens of thousands of suggestible young Westerners. Members recruited by what become known as "love-bombing" were put under immense pressure to gain new converts and raise funds in their turn; and, as in many cultish sects, members lived communally. Claims by media organisations that the church brainwashes its members have been consistently rejected in the courts, though the Daily Mail won a case defending its claim that the church broke up families.

Simon Cooper, pastor of the church's London branch, told The Independent on Sunday that since 1990, members have lived in their own homes and are no longer required to go out hunting for new members. Instead, they are supported by the huge business empire created by Moon and which is the church's secular shadow; the Tongil Group, the church's business arm, is involved in construction, heavy machinery and munitions, while a subsidiary is the biggest distributor of raw fish for sushi in the US. The organisation also has its own newspaper, The Washington Times, and a football team and ballet company.

Although Moon served a year in jail in the early 1980s for tax evasion – a sentence the church has condemned as religious persecution – he managed to make friends with both the presidents Bush. But his most impressive alliances were in North Korea: although he often denounced communism, in 1991, Moon had a friendly encounter with its then leader, Kim Il Sung. His successor, Kim Jong-il, sent him extravagant presents on his birthdays; and today the North's only car plant is a joint venture between the communist state and a Moon-owned firm. There is speculation that Kim Jong-un may send a delegation to the funeral.
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PostSubject: Re: Rev. Sun Myung Moon is dying - current big cult story unfolding   Mon Sep 17, 2012 11:33 am

Twilight of the Moonies and Scientologists?
Sep 16, 2012 4:45 AM EDT

As the Moonies leader Sun Myung Moon is buried this weekend, parents of Western teens are praying that the era of bizarre religious groups dies along with him. By Peter Popham


When Sun Myung Moon, the founder and self-styled messiah of the Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity, popularly known as the Moonies, was buried in South Korea this weekend, parents of teenage children around the world devoutly hoped that the era of the bizarre religious sects—of which his organization was a hugely successful specimen—passed, too.

Moon lived in the U.S. for more than 30 years and was the CEO of a private company, the Tongil Group, with interests in construction, heavy machinery, munitions, and much else. A subsidiary of that company is the biggest distributor of raw fish for sushi in the U.S. The Tongil Group has its own newspaper, the Washington Times, as well as a football team and a ballet company. The size of Moon’s fortune is a closely guarded secret, but was thought to be around $1 billion dollars.

His vast wealth allegedly helped Moon to get on friendly terms with both Presidents Bush, despite the prison term he served in the early 1980s in the U.S. for tax evasion. He also gained the trust of Kim Il-Sung of North Korea and the child and grandchild who succeeded him.

Yet first and foremost Moon was the leader of an outrageous sect founded on his claim to be the reincarnation of Jesus Christ, destined to rule the world. “God is living in me and I am the incarnation of Himself,” he once declared. “The whole world is in my hand and I will conquer and subjugate the world.” In 1976 he said in a speech that was recycled last week by the Church, “After my death millions of people in the spirit world and here on earth will testify to my deeds, and to what I have done in history...in eternity I know that my deeds will shine...I intend to...surpass the suffering of all the past saints, so as to not only dwell among them but rise up above them.”

In 2004 he told a grand audience on Washington’s Capitol Hill that long-dead emperors, kings, and presidents, including Hitler and Stalin, had declared “from beyond the grave...to all Heaven and Earth that Reverend Sun Myung Moon is none other than humanity’s saviour, messiah, returning Lord and parent.”

Moon founded his church amid the squalor and misery of Busan, a rough Korean port town, in the wake of the Korean war, claiming that Jesus had appeared to him years before to explain that the crucifixion had prevented him from completing his work, and had given him the task of doing so, by spreading his blessings to create a world of faithful, sinless couples and families.

Mourners bow in front of the portrait of the late Rev. Sun Myung Moon during a memorial service in Gapyeong, South Korea on Sept. 6, 2012. (Lee Jin-man / AP Photo)

Moon blended the most enticing elements of the available traditions with the panache of a top chef: the Christianity of the conquering Americans, made palatable to his Korean flock by a neo-Confucian stress on weddings and families, spiced with a dash of pseudo-Buddhist mysticism. No wonder Christian churches in the West rejected his efforts to unify them.

But Western kids were another matter. Steve Hassan was a 19-year-old college student with a high opinion of himself as an “independent thinker,” but one day, he told the Guardian, “three women, dressed like students, asked if they could sit at my table in the cafeteria. They were kind of flirting with me. I thought I was going to get a date.” He says tThey lied to him, flatly denying they belonged to a religious group; in fact, they were missionaries for the Moonies, and quickly he was hooked. “Within three months I was a cult leader. I got very deeply involved, and I got to the point where I was being told to think about what country I wanted to run when we took over the world.”

Hassan eventually extricated himself and became a leading campaigner against such groups. On his website freedomofmind.com, he warns that today “the internet is… the primary vehicle for recruitment and indoctrination.” But it is also the primary vehicle for fighting back, as the online hacktivists Anonymous have demonstrated with their concerted onslaught against Scientology.

“God is living in me and I am the incarnation of Himself,” he once declared.

“Love-bombing” Moonie co-eds have gone the way of bell-ringing Hare Krishnas. And although the Unification Church still stages the occasional mass wedding, and tens of thousands are expected for Moon’s funeral, the reported pressure on new members to recruit and raise funds has eased: today’s Moonies live in their own homes and the Church is allegedly underwritten by the business empire.

Today the most high-profile of the old-time secretive sects is Scientology. It continues to respond belligerently when challenged—to the assaults by Anonymous, to Vanity Fair’s recent story about young actresses being auditioned for the job of Tom Cruise’s wife, to the acclaimed new film by Paul Thomas Anderson The Master, in which Philip Seymour Hoffman plays a character that Anderson admits was based on Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard. Institutional grouchiness and reflexive recourse to lawyers do not help to persuade a new generation of a religion’s privileged access to wisdom. The Baby Boom sects just might be on their last legs.
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