How are Cults, Subcultures and Cultures Different? This is the question. Whatever it is, we attach our minds to some “truths” while never questioning them again. Contrary ideas to these not to be analyzed truths are attacked like mosquitoes carrying a virus; always do them in. The hidden question becomes; how can human beings be honest over what they think and why when they cannot ask questions?
Suddenly the difference between a culture and a cult can merely be who’s on top.
We, the general public, tend to find cults to be bazaar to us in some way. They seem to us to interfere with an individuals free choice. We think that some views of theirs, perhaps unconventional appearances, or ways they have a different take on reality, spirituality, and ideas of the self and society, are unacceptable to a free society, or to healthy self realization.
To call an organization a cult tends to require more that just opinion as to non primary culture consensus realities. We need some viable evidence of damage being done to the individual. Usually this seems to us to be obvious, as abuse of some kind, and or being tricked by the organization once one is committed to it.
But in the abstract, the definition of a cult should proceed to damages done to individuals and to the planetary systems by their ideas, now matter who or how such damaging ideas are being seeded into a population. These will then, by nature, include economic mechanisms for distributing goods and services, and possibly collective societal views out toward other human beings. Most talk about cults does not go to the whole context of life, and what harm our ideas and beliefs are doing there, for some reason we thik they are necessary. Welcome to cult diversionary thinking when opportunism presents advantage.
Much of this blog is concerned with threats to human beings; physical and psycho-spiritual. I also attempt to provide my ideas of ways out of the dilemmas regarding our beliefs which have damaging implications. I am eternally optimistic because I believe love is more worthwhile than fear.
First off, let me state that I was in a cult, while certainly those in it think it is not. It happens that the head of cult exposing organization in the early 1990’s was from the same church I was from. I was a full time member of that same church. It was not a traditional cult, for it usually did not attempt to actively seek our recruits. Cults can be many things; from established religions, to businesses, and even mental health professionals gone wild–(the worst one I have heard of back then).
I participated with a cult information group that helped educate people about cults. It acted as an encounter and support group for ex cult members, holding monthly meetings. Of the folks who came; some left their families behind, some lived an alias life in fear of death threats, some could not shake their cult programing about spiritual matters that condemned them to hell, according to their groups spiritual/cosmological view, and to a persecuted life. Most all had no idea the group or church was actually a kind of prison, since how could it be with such happy campers inside?
Cult or just a normal Church?
Levels of cultiness can depend upon the individual. This makes “being in a cult” possibly a subjective event for some. Most established religions of today were viewed as cults or dangerous aberrations of some kind by the status quo’s of long ago. Generally, an entity like the Catholic Church is not thought of as a cult by the modern definition. In my life, however, the Catholic Church played a primary role in causing a problem in my life in the beginning on the 3rd day of my first grade of Catholic grammar school. The events of the next few days, and their spiritual repercussions, went on to disturb most of my life from then on into my formative years. This when I was just 5 years old. A Catholic near you might not have the cult definition of serious damage to ones life, but for me, this is not the case.
Where does a cult end and a culture begin?
My view of cult qualities is more expanded than some. I do not consider many established societal entities, from church to government, as being beyond the definition of causing damage to ones life, or to all life, by the belief and behaviors encouraged by those entities. I have come to see that the unquestioned or unquestionable premises of many groups institutes a dysfunctional approach to both the present moment and all the environments focused therein. This can make them damaging to the self and to The Commons (all Life’s connectivity) And all while they claim to be governed by “facts”, “the truth”, “how it must be”, or some other unassailable quantification. From my perspective; as we institute approaches to living that do not take into account the all that is Life, we risk damaging our own and others lives with an institutionalized sense of unaccountable separation…
There are many groups operating that fit my above definition of damage in our world. These can hide their cult qualities right out in the open, especially if abstractions held by the group are presumed to be closely aligned with any cultural “good things”, like making a living. When in a cult, (from my own experience and the views of others), you “know” you are not in a cult, but you can be quite certain what cults are; they are those crazy people over there. The trouble with observing and discussion damaging concepts in a culture when they are the operating norm is, that it can look and feel like I or you are being blamed just for being us. Defensiveness regarding a functioning life is natural. Never asking questions from authority and being discouraged to, demonstrates an instituted lack of courage, it has been “dissed”, and that is damaging.
The best (or actually worst) cults inoculate their followers with critical thinking impairment toward the group identity and the leadership. You can see how others outside your group are following false and damaging notions, but not have a clue about your own groups behavior. For religious groups, faith in the groups definitions and perspectives toward others can be part of what one believes in. A kind of ignorance becomes group capital for a lopsided world view to seem both fair and balanced. Some predatory interest will look for these faith based folks to rationalize ideas not subject to scientific or objective analysis. The best place to hide ones deceptions can be right in front of the self defined good, or saved people.
Cults are attractive, and tend to attract those of above normal intelligence, but who probably lack a wholesome upbringing. A culture is another matter. Most cults have a look about them of high functionality; well adjusted people willing to do most anything for you. Often, in really serious quick bond cults, you are shepherded or otherwise swarmed over. some are smothered to keep questioning and alienation from having time to set in. This phenomenon is known as “Love Bombing”.
You see the rat race world on the one hand, knowing the world is not right, and this other spiritual or fulfillment world abounding with wonderful people on the other hand is right in front of you. For many, this appearance of healthy living and loving care seems just what the doctor ordered (understandably), and is easily ascribed a divine cause. Likely, you will be the recipient of narratives from other folks witnessing how they were just like you; disgruntled and disenchanted about life and the way people are, then they were saved. The real people of God, or for some, of self realization, was found.
It becomes blurred to many, what honest and innocent revelation may be, and how they would ever comprehend deception or misrepresentation in the Nirvana they see in their new-found holy community. The subtle us and them being possibly created, as well as the lack of rigorous questioning allowed upward, begins to settle in as the way it is. Unfortunately, ones God given critical thinking (scientific) sense may be being unplugged and otherwise disenfranchised, while various leaps of faith become highly encouraged and guided.
You may or may not have noticed the familiarity of this above scenario to many a group, especially conservative religious and political groups in the USA. Some liberal groups as well, take on a highly conformist tone without the followers knowing the level of us and them being created. Just because a place or association has nice people does not make it a cult. It is what happens with the idea indoctrination, and what happens with the way the whole of the other outside world is perceived. This may have aspects of truthful definitions about the world, but it will also have unquestionable assumptions bound to the group identity. Us and them will be encouraged, integrative intelligence about the worlds other ideas, discouraged. “Truth” will come to mean something much different than one might think for a definition of empirical factual realities.
Our shocking Follow the Leader trends in today’s politics.
How far will signing pledges not to raise taxes need to stretch to signing pledges to drink the final laced Kool aid?
(I met two people, a Black woman and a White boy teenager, a couple months before they likely died at Jonestown Guyana mass murder-suicide. They mentioned to me they were moving to Guyana.)
Once a “truth” is isolated into abstraction such as the tax issue, the context taxation occurs in becomes demonized to becoming a no-good. But think about it; Roads are no good? Educating all Americans is no good? Clean air and water are no good? Not having folks die of starvation and disease because they are poor is no good? The abstraction attains an inbred insanity claiming to be a smiling good thing. Magical thinking becomes the truth. The above issues are fixed magically, or are just not our common problems to be thought of. This kind of thinking comes to institute irrationality as a good thing. From this dangerous precipice, most any fall can occur into the abyss.
It is one thing to have ones own particular slants on things, another to insist others must think exactly the same. Yet for followers unfortunately, truth will be the consensus reality opinion provided by the leadership, including its negative appraisals of those not in sink with the group. Usually buzz words will convey the “knowing” the conserved identity possesses. “The Liberal Media” has attained this, wraps it all up identification. (Same with Secular Humanist and many other assumed proofs.) Ignoring the profit making and conflict addiction “natural” to competing corporations looking to enhance media market share, which may make the media act in its own self interest, and not that of liberals per-say, is essentially nowhere. Such other context, as competing definition to behaviors some kinds of conservatives may be engaging in, is best discouraged for the conspiracy of liberals to succeed as a “factual” reality.
Liberalism is what manifest America and most democratic institutions. Waging war on it is tantamount to an assault on reason and the rights of the individual to think for themselves, as challenged as that right actually is objectively.
That the more education one has the more liberal they tend to be, is a challenge to promoting views more easily held by the undereducated and others more easily swayed by ad-hominem emotionalized platforms for social perception. This intellectual elite charge attached to education seems to become another proof for part of the source of the liberal conspiracy–intellectual elite’s, usually with a car or a drink as final proof. Ignored will be the huge infusion of right wing media personnel, many 10’s of thousands, from right wing educational facilities.
Ignored again, will be the right wing think tank huge advantage from big money investment in idea control, which turns out focus group concepts to further their agenda. These seem to end up in the right wings talking head campaigns, who just happen to all think the same way on most any given day. No. The Liberal Media is the all pervasive sinister force. That the lead up to the Iraq war was instituted with a near universal heavy media enforced bias to favor conservative talking heads and concepts? Who knew?
Also off the radar, is that in a diverse society with diverse problems and interest, a liberal media would seem to define the needed level of attention to all. Virtually a structural requirement in a democracy. The seeming lack of one seemingly encouraged the unquestioning hubris and misinformation on the connections between 9-11 and Iraq. Coincidentally? These issues all involve highly cult like characters.
Where is the exit?
When you leave the cult; even a de facto one like Bush Press Secretary Scott McClellan did, the lights of reality get turned on. And for Scott, for those liberals he believed were so misguidedly wrong, he now says they should have spoken up more and kept the pressure on. Unfortunately, the companies who payed the reporters bills seem to not support such truth seeking “in a time of war.” Or a lead-up to a disingenuous one. If the truth is not convenient, then what exactly is? Distortion. Notice as well, how Scott McClellan was viewed by his ex co-parrots– the usual cult bond explanation/persuasion that the liberals (or ones other ideological enemies) are using him and will spit him out. It seems that the strategy to tell a really big lie as the way that falsity succeeds at it, worked to seduce a nation to war. Why? It has been done before, both here and abroad.
After hearing so many stories from exited cult members, I was particularly shocked about the culty nature of most modern conservatism. It was eerie to see the kinds of messages and blame targeting that was spread around on the right. Political parties are kinda culty in presentation in my opinion, expecting one to be on the same bias to truth wavelength, and yet some of their definitions carry damaging repercussions to The Commons, and so inevitably to individuals. The scary way some in the Bush administration used Orwellian language and strategies right out of the Nazi play-book to manipulate the population toward ideologically skewed ends, meant a certain viewpoint toward the citizenry and factual truths was banked on. Remember that at one time, some 80% of the population was following false assumption and context while considering it the truth. Fear and insecurity can make many of us believe in nonsense.
Something fishy is indeed going on in the right. It is not an accident that folks who use the web, drive cars, watch TV and go to the doctor, have a large segment who feel science is all some kind of lie. It is not only the almost pathological attempt to validate Biblical “facts”, interpreted by someones to mean science is a deception, it is about what facts are to individuals. Crippling critical and rational thinking abilities aides and abets the kinds of deceptions that fear and insecurity will cling to if offered in times of stress.
A kind of pride grows in cults such as the one I was in, that see science as just plain immature, foolish and superficial. What you feel is suddenly your guide as long as it is in line with some conserved orthodoxy’s slantations. The political capital in having minds and hearts unplugged from reality checking does damage life, and unknowingly by many of the faithful followers who think they are standing up for what is right. Even bringing this up to them can make one be defined as irrelevant. Exploitation is still alive and quite well. It is damaging to the followers and to the planet, that the repercussions of most conservative actions are not addressed, nor responsibilities owned up to. Conservatism is the safest place for distortion and unquestioned “loyalty” to hide out, while guiding its behavior in golden reason which heads predictably nod yes to.
The truth? No matter what I believe, the clock is still ticking, no matter the flag I fly or the God I claim as mine. Now is new and always unique; it is the place, the only place, where the power and grace of forgiveness lives. The proof of freedom is in accommodating the past with understanding. The ever patient present moment. It is NOW, that the perpetrators of conflict and alienation actually fear. Yet even they are included.
(For the sarcastic ones on this issue; A cult of one is better than some.)