There are important differences between fraternities and clubs. To start off with, you become a member of a fraternity for life, whereas you join a club for as long as you like. Like your siblings, you will always have these brothers (sisters for sororities and women's fraternities) for life (and often you are considered to still be a member even in death). Clubs have a social orientation, while fraternities were created for self-improvement, and so if you leave a club, some friends will miss you, but those in charge of membership will look for a replacement.

In a true fraternity, each member genuinely cares about the others. If they truly care, they will assist each other in improving themselves and getting a better education, and this defines how the fraternal committment works -- how one helps the fraternity achieve its purpose, rather than what dues you might pay.


Boy, that story Qeyser relates below creeps me out.
This is my entry for icicle's Short Quest, a true story told to me by a friend of mine while we were sitting around a campfire in Western Pennsylvania. I will render it the first person for the sake of narration.
When I was a feshman in college, I was under the impression that I wanted to join a fraternity -- and I had made alot of friends who were pledging that year, so it was no big deal.

So pledge time comes around, and when it does what happens (apart from the official university sanctioned events) is that you are on call for the brothers -- 24 hours a day. The university forbade hazing, but I knew that things went on, I wasn't stupid. This was before the whole Scott Kreuger thing; there was no control over the unofficial pledge activities, there was no one watching out after us.

On a tuesday night, around 12am, the brothers came to my dorm. This was the third or fourth time this had happened. One time they woke us up at 3am and took us to a nasty strip club which they had managed to get all to themselves for a night. Another time we drove around with them for hours answering fraternity questions and singning fraternity songs. This night, we were again put into cars. They put our wallets, watches and keys into a bag, and then we were blindfolded and driven out of the city.

(We were half-expecting to be put out alone into a field or a small town and given instructions to return to campus in 12 hours, being given nothing more than a few dollars. One of my fellow pledges memorized his phone card number in anticipation of this, and claimed to have a ride pre-arranged for him.)

It's funny, when you're in the dark the passage of time doesn't make sense. I could hear that we were being driven through the city. I could have sworn that the brother at the wheel just drove in circles for a while before getting on the highway out of town. From the noise I could tell that we were on an interstate or a major bypass; it might have been an hour or perhaps two before we exited onto a smaller highway. And then onto a small local road. And then a dirt road.

None of us knew the time, or recognized where we were. In the city, the sky has an opaque, orange-purple glow to it -- even at the dead of night -- from the pollution and the low cloud cover. When they took us out of the cars I could see the stars, and the moonlight was clear enough to cast shadows.

They hadn't taken us to an isolated field, but a large dark house on a plot of untended farm land. We were taken single-file into the basement; the only light was from a single large candle in the center of the large room, and we were brought in until we formed a circle aroud it.

We were prepared for this, too. I had heard probably dozens of pledge stories about various candle rituals. Maybe we'd sing songs or maybe we'd be forced to tell the brothers -- and each other -- strange secrets about our sexual experiences. Maybe we'd just have to sit there in silence.

After a few minutes the disembodied voice of a brother standing outside the circle told us to face the candle in the center of the circle. (Later, the pledges and I realized that we didn't know whow's voice it was. We knew every one of the brothers, and even though we would later meet scores of alumni and brothers from local chapters, we never figured out who was there in the room with us.)

He told us to sit down indian-style with our knees touching the knees of the pledge beside us. And then he said, "Now, I'm want you to repeat what I say, and I don't want you to stop until I tell you to: 'Alpha Delta Phi is God, Sir.'"

Alpha Delta Phi is God, Sir.

Alpha Delta Phi is God, Sir.

Alpha Delta Phi is God, Sir.

The voice said this maybe two or three times with us, and then stopped once we got the idea. For the first 10 seconds or so we were mumbling, out of sync. I think that most of us weren't taking it very seriously (I know I wasn't) because we expected to be stopped in a minute or so.

But we weren't stopped. We kept repeating it. After 30 seconds or so we had organized into a vauge rhythm. After two minutes we were chanting. As I remember it, there was no clear single moment when I realized that *this* is what we were brought out for. I just kept chanting, right along with everybody else:

Alpha Delta Phi is God, Sir.

Alpha Delta Phi is God, Sir.

Alpha Delta Phi is God, Sir.

Alpha Delta Phi is God, Sir.

The words dissociated themselves in my head, like when you repeat your name over and over again until it sounds like gibberish..

Alpha Delta Phi is God, Sir.

The words melted into nothing but syllables, gutteral alien noises rendered into four crude trochees:

Alpha Delta Phi is God, Sir.

Time stopped. In the car, there was something to grab onto -- noises and smells, the lurch of the suspension as it snagged a tight turn, the rustling of the people next to you. But here there was nothing but a candle and Alpha Delta Phi is God, Sir. Alpha Delta Phi is God, Sir. No one stood up or stopped chanting. No one panicked. I don't remember ever falling asleep, but I seriously doubt I would remember if I did. Later on, some people swore to me that they slept -- but I think they just don't remember it, or didn't want to.

I've heard people say that most people never realize how close they are to going insane, how tenuous the perception of ordinary reality really is. And I believe that. When I was there in the circle, I remember thinking that I would never leave, that time had in fact stopped and I would be there forever. I remember trying to count the number of times I chanted, starting over ten times before giving up. I don't think I ever really thought that Alpha Delta Phi is God, Sir. But I don't think that was the point.

A brother opened the basement and told us to come upstairs at some point around 10am the next morning. They drove us back without blindfolds, and most of us went into our dorms to sleep. It took me about a day to reconcile what had happened in the basement with everything else I know about objective reality. I talked about it a bit with some of the pledges and they had the same feelings. I am convinced that if I hadn't been able to corroborate my story with other people then I would probably have thought that it didn't really happen.

The next week I dropped out of the pledge class. My friends that are now brothers are sworn to secrecy about many things, including the pledging events, so I was never able to find out more than what I know now. I never found out where the house was, who was there, who started the ritual in the first place, why they did it, for how long they'd be doing it. I never found out what happens when a pledge goes nuts during one of these chants, or if anyone ever had.

As I get older and gradually lose touch with my friends who were there with me, the memory of it sometimes suprises me, bubbles up when I least expect it. Sometimes I just remember Alpha Delta Phi is God, Sir., and it takes me a moment to bring it all back -- why I was there? when did this happen? Which of my friends was there with me? Do I have his number, his email? Maybe I should give him a call . . .

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