In John I Trust: The invention of religion.

The people living on the island of Tana in the Pacific were a primitive
bunch. In the late nineteenth century Christain missionaries arrived in
Papua New Guinea to spread the word of god. When first introduced to
these strange white people the islanders believed them to be their
ancestors returned form the dead. According to their prophecy their
ancestors would one day return from the world of the dead bringing with
them precious cargo.

The people of Tana eager to receive their cargo followed the
missionaries instructions. They help build churches that they would
eventually attend. All along the missionaries believing they were
successful in converting the people of Tana never realized the people's
ulterior motive. Eventually, however, the people of Tana began to
askance as to whether singing church hymns would ever lead them to
their cargo. Despite being ultimately confused as to the games their
ancestors were playing they nonetheless went along with it.

One day during World War II new strange white men appeared complete
with army fatigues and magical weapons, the likes to which the living
world had never seen. The people of Tana realized their missionary
friends paled in comparison to these more sophisticated gods. As a
result the people of Tana stopped going to church and began building
bamboo landing strips, warehouses, and radio masts. They carved
figurines of warplanes, helmets, and riffles out of bamboo and even
into their bodies.

see idiotechnica for rest of story.

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Comment by Jim DePaulo on March 14, 2010 at 10:05am
What most missionaries ignore is the existing cultural paradigm of the peoples they are trying to bring to Jeebus. It doesn't seem to occur to them that strong cultural elements of a society won't just disappear when they hear about Jeebus. The cargo cults are an excellent example.
Comment by scott martins on March 13, 2010 at 2:29am
Did you know they even built control towers manning them with air traffic controllers with bamboo head sets? You probably do since I've been reading all your blogs and you are obviously very well informed. By the way you are also very beautiful. It had to be said. Keep up the good work. I've learned a lot from you.



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