The Foreign Nature of Cults

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.



3 thoughts on “The Foreign Nature of Cults

  1. Thank you for writing this post! I too have always pictured cults as a “scary” thing. The thing that stood out to me most in this post is the idea that the co-founder of Pay-Pal thinks that applying cult-like ideals to business is what drives the market. I agree with you on the point that a “cult” would not be the appropriate term to describe this theory. I do not think that cults are necessary for the promotion and success of business and I think that in many people, like you and I, the very thought makes people fearful.

  2. I strongly agree that cults pose a serious threat to religious individuals. Although it may seem somewhat valid that cults facilitate the growth and advancement of religions, I strongly disagree that this following is “healthy”, as Philip Jenkins states. I believe that individuals who partake in cults and cult like behaviour have essentially no control over their own actions, which can be attributed to the extreme indoctrination they are subjected to. Considering this, I agree with the opinion that cults are very dangerous for those involved and a lack of freedom should never be considered a good thing, regardless if it facilitates the advancement of society or religion.

  3. In response to this mini-blog, my thoughts on cults as to whether they should exist are the same as what the writer wrote to some extent. I agree that cults are not necessary for society to continue on. Cults in my definition are born from major religions such as Christianity and Islam, and often have the fundamentals of what the religion teaches, plus a few more things that are required. For example, Mormonism, a brand new religion, has many cult-like traits, such as the fundamentals, which is Salvation through Jesus Christ, and a few more things, such as attending a church in a designated area determined by the location of your residence, membership, Mormon temples, and oaths. Another trait I define as a cult is the mystery of the religion and secrets behind it. Such as Mormon temples and oaths, Mormon temples are not open to regular people or regular Mormons and is often shrouded in mystery, and oaths are used to swear secrecy and have this sense of hierarchy where it seems that the longer you’ve been serving in the church, the more different teachings are taught that sound very different from the mainstream branch, Christianity. However, because all this I have describe above is much generalized because of the information lacking and is collected through ex-Mormons. Cults to me are very secretive and needs further research on. Based on my own definition and the writer’s definition of a cult, I conclude that Cults are not necessary, but I do not believe that in a business environment, having such traits could ruin a business or project due to a defining trait – secrecy.

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