The Foreign Nature of Cults
I remember watching YouTube videos about cults and being terrified that such a concept existed, but fascinated how people were drawn to them. The idea that someone would devote themselves to a person or ideal to the point that they no longer have control over their actions is scary, but it has been very common in the past. In his article, Ross Douthat talks about the dwindling presence of cults in the present as opposed to how prevalent they were a few decades ago. To most people, this would sound like a good thing but there are many writers that have taken to this topic to address how it may not actually be as beneficial as it sounds.
Philip Jenkins, who studies religious history, argues that religions should have a desire for there to be more cults because they indicate a healthy curiousity from their followers. He argues that without these “charismatic weirdos”, there is no physical manifestation of growth or health within that religion. Although I see where he is coming from, I don’t agree with his thoughts. Cults differ from religion because they usually manifest in violent or dangerous manners and that definitely is not something religious groups want to be associated with. Already, many religious followers of faiths such as Christianity and Islam are identified by their radical counterparts, which is not only offensive, but extremely ignorant. Cults would only further this stigma and create a negative atmosphere for these people.
Peter Thiel, who is the co-founder of Pay-Pal and an active controversialist argues from a broader perspective, applying cult-like ideals to business, politics, and innovation. He believes that crazed, hungry sort of behaviours are what drive the market and ultimately help entrepreneurs succeed and create new goods and services. To some extent, he believes that all this progress relies on the cults of mainstream society. When the cult-like impulses decrease, it is likely that less technological progress will be achieved. I agree with him on the fact that sometimes it is the most provoked people that help society, but I don’t think “cult” would be an appropriate description of that theory. Although the market or politics have great influence over people, I don’t think it has reached that stage where we when refer to it as a cult.
Both these writers argue for the same side: cults are necessary for a thriving society, and should not die out. Having taken their accounts in mind, I still believe that cults are neither a necessity nor a luxury that is worth the risk of having your freedom and personal choice taken away from you without realization. Religion will remain safe so long as it is distanced from the impending damages of the cult.