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Cults, Conspiracies, and Secret Societies: The Straight Scoop on Freemasons, The Illuminati, Skull and Bones, Black Helicopters, The New World Order, and many, many more (Vintage) Paperback


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Cults, Conspiracies, and Secret Societies: The Straight Scoop on Freemasons, The Illuminati, Skull and Bones, Black Helicopters, The New World Order, and many, many more (Vintage) + Conspiracies and Secret Societies: The Complete Dossier + The Mammoth Book of Cover-Ups: The 100 Most Terrifying Conspiracies of All Time
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Product Details

  • Series: Vintage
  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; 1 Original edition (August 11, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307390675
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307390677
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.2 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #137,544 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

The kind of reference manual that the Internet cannot supplant . . . Goldwag keeps the facts straight and gives the rumors -- no matter how lurid and entertaining -- about as much respect as they deserve.”—The Washington Post

 
“Marvelous.”—Scientific American

“Arthur Goldwag is a shrewd, fair minded, learned and entertaining tour guide through a world that’s simultaneously funny and frightening. Not a page goes by without some “I-didn’t-know-that!” nugget. Given what’s going on this ever-more-paranoid society, a book like this becomes not only titillating but crucially important.”—Steven Waldman, Editor-in-Chief and co-founder of Beliefnet.com

“The answer to your burning questions about subjects from Area 51 to the Yakuza.”—Details

“Delightful.” –The Weekly Standard
 
“Goldwag is a colorful writer who makes good use of his material as he aims to explain, rather than debunk or expose, a fascinating diversity of beliefs.”—Boston Globe
  
“The author’s delivery is engaging and entertaining. The amount of research done in this book is astounding. . . . An incredibly insightful, thoroughly enjoyable look at society’s shadow.”—Armchair Interviews

“Goldwag navigates his way through the wilder reaches of human belief with great urbanity.”
—Mark Booth, author of The Secret History of the World: As Laid Down by the Secret Societies

“As entertainingly written as it is enlightening.”
—Phillip Lopate

About the Author

Arthur Goldwag is the author of Isms and Ologies. A freelance writer and editor for more than twenty years, he has worked at Book-of-the-Month Club (where he created Traditions, a club devoted to Jewish interests), as well as at Random House and The New York Review of Books.

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Customer Reviews

People who criticize this book are not "conspiracy nuts."
Acropolis
Ultimately this is a book that very briefly touches all the topics listed on the books cover and inner chapter list.
Carbonadam
To be fair I didn't read the whole book, I only read the first 50 pages.
Scram J

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Richard Gazala VINE VOICE on October 7, 2009
Format: Paperback
The lengthy title and subtitle of Arthur Goldwag's book, "Cults, Conspiracies, and Secret Societies: The Straight Scoop on Freemasons, The Illuminati, Skull and Bones, Black Helicopters, The New World Order, and many, many more," belies the brevity with which he addresses most of the myriad subjects between the book's covers. It's true even a mildly avid researcher can find on the Internet or in a public library or well-stocked bookstore vast amounts of exhaustively detailed material devoted to each of the subjects Goldwag surveys in his book. This is the advantage, rather than disadvantage, of Goldwag's approach. Goldwag's book supplies only the tantalizing breadcrumbs. He leaves it for the reader to follow the trail if she's hungry to find more information on the matters that interest her, many of which she may never had known of before exploring Goldwag's work. Goldwag's writing is savvy, crisp and clean, often tongue-in-cheek, and he's not afraid to voice his personal opinion on some of the wackier Cults, Conspiracies, and Secret Societies featured in his book. It's a quick, informative and entertaining read, which I believe is exactly what the author intended.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful By ghostrider on November 9, 2009
Format: Paperback
This book delivers what it promises. It's an entertaning, thoughtfully written compendium of the major groups, people, and ideas that have attempted to explain and/or manipulate this complex, mysterious, fascinating world we live in.

I've known about many of these cults, conspiracy theories and societies since I was a kid. Others have sprung into being during the half century that's elapsed since then. Still others are new to me. The wealth of information in these pages and the new details that Goldwag has unearthed on even familiar topics make this book a valuable resource here in 2009.

Some might quibble at the alphabetical organization within each of the book's three sections; I found it a bit odd at first. However, I'm hard pressed to come up with a better structure. It allows Goldwag to tell the full story of each topic he addresses, whether it stretches over tens or hundreds of years. It also makes it easy to zero in on items that might hold particular interest, and to find your way back to them later. Sources are cited frequently throughout the text for anyone interested in delving more deeply into a particular area.

Goldwag clearly is writing from the perspective of an interested rationalist. That's bound to push the buttons of some folks who hold certain notions as articles of faith. A few of the reviews here are evidence of that. For me, there's something intruiging and thought-provoking on every page. That's exactly what I want from a book of this sort.
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32 of 47 people found the following review helpful By Acropolis on September 16, 2009
Format: Paperback
People who criticize this book are not "conspiracy nuts." That kind of blanket prejudice reflects one of the problems with Goldwag's book: it encloses such a wide range of groups within its narrow binding and slaps a provocative label on them. Given this pattern, why not include the Catholic church? Obviously, the book caters to the reader who sees any kind of secretive society as weird or "fringe" and loves having a new gossip partner in Goldwag. The book has no index, and it's definition of cults is simplistic and overly brief. At least, Goldwag acknowledges--or hints at--the legitimacy of the skepticism MANY have felt about 9/11 and the government's failure to prevent these attacks (after so many warnings). Instead of just listing all these societies and giving such brief, thumbnail descriptions of their, in some cases, long histories, why not include a sociological study of why people, being social creatures, form groups that in some cases devolve into "cults" or "secret societies"? Why group conspiracy thinkers, who may not even be "groups" in any formal sense of the term, with cults and secret societies? Are those who think Oswald may have been, as he himself said, a "patsy" or pawn conspiracy nuts? The gov't committee that reviewed the case in the 70's left open that possibility while supporting the Warren Commission's findings. The founding fathers were skeptical of big government AND of corporations. Were they a cult as well?

Part of my gripe with this book is its quick-read, throwaway packaging. A provocative title is slapped on an orange cover, all the indexing is in the table of contents for fast and thoughtless perusal, and the whole shopping bag of groups totals 384 pages.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Dr Trevor J Hawkeswood on August 22, 2013
Format: Paperback
Book Review: Cults, Conspiracies, & Secret Societies by Arthur Goldwag (2009)

This is a very interesting, small format paperback book of 332 pages, which deals with the three topics from the title. There are no illustrations.

The book is well written and easily read but it is obvious that the author does not believe in conspiracies. However, I can assure him, from my experience, that conspiracies are common in the world because this is the nature of humankind.

The first section deals with Cults and there are many of these, ranging from better known ones such as the Mormons (or the Church of Jesus Christ's Latter Day Saints), the maniacal Branch Davidians (led by the madman David Koresh), the Heavens Gate nut crowd, the Charles Manson family cult, Opus Dei and The Unification Church (these are the Moonies). And then of course there is an account of Jim Jones and his crazy Jonestown in Guyana and the Scientology crowd, which has nothing whatsoever to do with science or scientism. Other well known cults are also described such as the Assassins, Aum Shinrikyo, Bruderhof, Christian Identity, Church of the Last Testament, Druze, est, The Family International, Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn etc etc. Most of these cults were set up by insane conmen from all walks of life and it is really amazing to see how the general populace goes for these outlandish and often dangerous set-ups.

The Aum Shinrikyo were based in Tokyo and were another insane group of Japanese, this time led by a blind yoga teacher by the name of Shoko Asahara. This cultish crowd recruited ex military men and scientists and stockpiled conventional chemical and biological weapons such as ebola virus, anthrax, cholera, and botulin, with which Asahara planned to hasten the advent of Armageddon.
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