Religion: The Cargo Cults

Australian patrols venturing into the central highlands of New Guinea just after World War II found that their arrival set off a tremendous religious movement. The natives killed all their pigs—principal sources of food and symbol of social position—in the belief that after three days of darkness, "Great Pigs" would appear from the sky. Imitation radio antennas made of rope and bamboo were set up to receive news of the millennium, when black skins would turn white and all the harsh demands of life would miraculously disappear.

This was no isolated phenomenon. "Cargo cults" ("cargo" is pidgin English for trade goods) have...

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