In 1839, in Trout Creek, New York, nestled in the wild hinterlands of Delaware County, a prophet was born. His name was Cyrus Teed, and in 1869, he claimed to have transfigured lead into gold in his laboratory. That very night he was also struck with a prophetic vision: God appeared to him as a beautiful woman, who separated Teed from his body and blessed him while he stood in a numinous spirit-state. “I have brought thee to this birth to sacrifice thee upon the altar of all human hopes,” God told him, “Thou art chosen to redeem the race.”
I have to say this whole area fascinates me -- an atheist -- because I just don't understand the "hunger" these people have. Is it something missing in their lives that causes this hunger? Is it a personality trait? Why are these people so "hungry" that they will follow charlatans along such dark paths?
As a child, I was sent to a religious school (my parents didn't know -- they just picked the "best" school that I could get into) and we had compulsory morning assembly and prayer and hymns, and compulsory religious education (for four years out of the seven I was at grammar school). There were also compulsory after-school events -- Christian rock bands would come and play, and we'd all have to stay late and listen to their dreadful songs. And nearly all my peers seemed to love all of this... and I just found it bewildering.
And now I'm sixty and I still find religion absolutely bewildering. I just don't understand why these people believe in the "old man in the sky" -- and why they feel the need to do such terrible things "in his name".