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LEARNING: History & Education | April 22, 1997



An Unpublished Letter to Los Angeles Times

I would like to point out something very significant that seems to have been left out of commentaries such as "Seeds of Apocalypse Are Among Us" (April 23), by Stephen O'Leary, and "A Nation of Cults: The Great American Tradition" (April 6), by Sean Wilentz, regarding the comparisons between cults, such as the successful, yet suicidal "Heaven's Gate", and more mainstream religions, from the Western traditions of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam to the Eastern traditions of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Taoism.

Although all beliefs should be tolerated in a free society, what most of us instinctively recognize and dismiss as "cults" typically look for salvation from mortal powers -- whether they be guns in Waco or a UFO allegedly behind [the] Hale Bopp [comet] -- whereas the generally more respected religions put their faith in more spiritual sources.

In our all-too-superficial and -cynical age -- in which lust is often valued more than love; appearances, more than truth; and money, more than human life -- all-too-many of us worship at the altar of materialism.

Saint Matthew said it best: "For what is a man profited, if he should gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" Let's not forget the deeper meaning of the new millennium -- it's not just about another thousand revolutions of our little "third rock from the sun".

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