It’s John Frum Day

Just how easy is it for a new religion to emerge? In his controversial work “The God Delusion” [my review here], Richard Dawkins shows how easy it is by refering to so-called “cargo cults”.
According to the Wikipedia explanation: “A cargo cult is any of a group of unorthodox religious movements appearing in tribal societies in the wake of Western impact, especially in New Guinea and Melanesia. Cargo cults essentially maintain that manufactured western goods (“cargo”) have been created by divine spirits and are intended for the local indigenous people, but that white people have unfairly gained control of these objects.”
Over the last 75 years most cargo cults have petered out. Yet, the John Frum cult is still active on the island of Tanna, Vanuatu. The name “John Frum” is possibly derived from World War II GIs introducing themselves to the locals as “John from America”.
The followers believe that John Frum will come back on a 15th February (the year of his return is not known), a date which is observed as “John Frum Day” in Vanuatu. If this seems odd, remember that Christians have been waiting 2,000 years for their Second Coming.

One Comment

  • Richard Leyton

    Cargo Cults jumped out at me too when I read Richard Dawkins’ book (comments here), as a startling example of how religious behaviour can spring up with the right, er, ‘ingredients’.
    I suppose I’m baffled that people who follow *any* religion just don’t seem to consider themselves comparable when reading about this widely observed, and studied, phenomenon.