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We have been considering -- because it keeps cropping up -- the claims a relatively small group of elitists has been setting the agenda for what will one day and perhaps soon be a world government with a global religion. Are such fears realistic?

Always, one has to avoid two extremes: naiveté, on the one hand; on the other, paranoia.

Which rules here?

The facts, as outlined in a fascinating book, The True Story of the Bilderberg Group, present before us an organization that includes movers and shakers from all walks (although mainly political-financial types), is unusually, even suspiciously, secretive, and meets each year at a different location. Many claim that this group, along with several offshoot organizations, sets the agenda for politics and economic developments in the West and much of the rest of the world.

There are two theories on why they are known as "Bilderbergers." One is because their very first meeting in 1954 was held at the Hotel Bilderberg in a small Dutch town called Oosterbeek [right]. This seems the most plausible.

The other, according to author Daniel Estulin, involves, perhaps, even a Nazi derivative.

During the Third Reich there was an executive named Farben Bilder who helped organize an elite group to direct Heinrich Himmler's "Circle of Friends," and one of the Bilderberg founders was Dutch Prince Bernhard, who was born in Germany, had been a member in the Reiter SS, admired Bilder, and wanted a similarly elite group to manage global economic events so there would never be another Great Depression.

However its name came to be, the group has met -- secretly -- every year since that meeting at the Hotel Bilderberg and has included everyone from the world's major bankers (especially David Rockefeller) to foreign ministers, treasury secretaries, prime ministers, and U.S. presidents (whose moves are usually recorded meticulously -- every one of them -- by the media, but not so when they attend Bilderberg meetings). Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger is a member of the core group and a key player.

Some say another major force behind the group was a British intelligence agency under the auspices of the Royal Institute of International Affairs -- who with secret U.S. funding contrived to get Jozef Retinger, at one time a Jesuit seminarian, to organize the Bilderbergers as power brokers behind the governments in Europe and North America.

The goal: first unite parts of the world -- regions, such as Europe -- then bring them all under a single umbrella.

The Bilderbergs have "spin-off organizations such as the Trilateral Commission and the Council on Foreign Relations, or CFR, which was recently acknowledged by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as a major influence in setting America's policies (she joked that she received all her directives from them).

Major contributors to CFR have included the Rockefeller Foundation, the Carnegie Foundation, and the Ford Foundation. The author quotes one expert as saying that great influence also has been exerted by executives from Chase Manhattan, the Bechtel Corporation, Kimberly-Clark, Monsanto Chemicals (which is behind the push for genetically-modified crops), and dozens of other corporations.

Do they direct certain trends and even wars, especially when energy is involved?

There is no doubt that something hidden is involved with the policies of governments in forming a trans-national entity.

Admitted David Rockefeller in his memoirs, "Some even believe we are part of a secret cabal working against the best interests of the United States, characterizing my family and me as 'internationalists' and of conspiring with others around the world to build a more integrated global political and economic structure -- one world, if you will. If that's the charge, I stand guilty, and I am proud of it" [our italics].

The book on the Bilderbergers comes at a time when economic, environmental, and political trends increasingly point to a globalization some fear could give rise to an anti-christian leader who would regulate religion and control of the world's population through various technologies, which are also rising  rapidly (and which some even relate to prophetic images in the Book of Revelation).

Luminaries such as Walter Cronkite have pushed for globalization -- he was given an award for his attempts to unite governments -- and U.S. presidents such as Jimmy Carter and George Bush Sr. have publicly used the term "new world order," working toward international coalitions in matters like Iraq. The European Union and the push for a North American "union" are cited as evidence that the world is coalescing according to Bilderberg plans.

Meanwhile, other international groups or "clubs" (see the Club of Rome) with many of the same players meet regularly in similar secrecy, including one north of San Francisco at what is known as Bohemian Grove (an event that has been attended, again, by presidents, bankers, scientists, media moguls, and the likes of the late Cronkite, who lent his voice to a huge "owl" that "presides" each year over a mock effigy-burning).

Are such gatherings just blowing off steam and tossing around ideas -- super-think-tanks, super-country clubs -- or are they venues whereby powerful men are positioning themselves for greater control of the planet? Are they "sinister" or simply misguided and focused on the worldly?

We can say this: there are liberals. There are moderates. There are conservatives (especially neo-conservatives). A common denominator: money. And the hope for global monopoly. A worrisome trend: the involvement of military leaders and the prospect that soon armed forces in countries such as the U.S. will be used for homeland security.

Most recently, such a prospect has been mentioned in the event of a flu epidemic.

Before that, it was terrorism.

It poses dangers.

"The new world order I describe in this book is all around us," argues Estulin. "Behind all of this realignment, enormous streams of wealth and capital are being expended and -- more importantly -- transferred behind the scenes. The people controlling this money are not seeing their control dissipate as the nation-states vanish. It is about a wholesale transfer of the world's wealth into fewer and fewer hands, administered by ruthless and, seemingly, increasingly desperate individuals.

"What looms in the near future is a crisis of proportion unseen in the annals of human history. It does not matter who sits in the 'Oval Office.' The powerful men behind the curtain will remove anyone not to their liking, or bad for their business. Business is money, and money makes its own rules."

Can a relatively small group of men (the Bilderberg meetings are usually less than 200) actually orchestrate all that they are ascribed to orchestrating?

It is difficult to say. But if Scripture tells us that the truth sets us free, what does secrecy have to do with liberty?

[resources: The True Story of the Bilderberg Group,  and Brotherhood of Darkness]

[see also: Video: the creature from Jekyll Island, Is 'secret' group behind world government?, Send in the troops? and Hillary admits CFR influence]

[Michael Brown retreats, spiritual protection and hope in a tumultuous time: Minnesota and New Jersey]

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