What makes you so sure you'd never join a cult?

Of course you wouldn’t join a cult! You’re a skeptic and you have common sense.

Of course, nobody would join a cult. That’s how cults work. In fact, it’s the people we think of as least likely to join cults — people who are highly highly intelligent, creative and well-educated — who are often most vulnerable.

It’s important to realize that not all “cults” are “religious” per se. NXIVM was a self-help leadership organization. Heaven’s Gate was pseudo-scientific. Jim Jones of the Peoples Temple was ostensibly Pentecostal, but it was no secret he actually didn’t believe in God. Jonestown was a political settlement, not a religious one.

Are you immune from cult indoctrination? How do you know?

 

Because they are creepy.

Because I understanding myself and the world around me - thus I’m not searching for someone to provide thee answers for me.

Seems to me most cult follower, are needy and want easy answers.

Something the predators have figured out how to sniff-out and spot, then nurture, for their harvest.

Also, much time on road 70s, 80s including many thousands by my thumb, plus other adventures, including getting to know a bit about the darker side of people and learning to trust myself.

 

:wink: since you asked?

I have been tested a few times. For instance,

During one of my darker periods (83ish) I was down in Louisiana for a while working, I went off for a weekend retreat with a nice christian who was an interesting talkative coworker on this job. I was already over my Christian phase, but it was a hurting time, and I was willing to test my fledgling beliefs and hear out the Christian message one more time on a weekend retreat.

He was a nice family man not on the make, so I trusted him and went along with his wife and child. Well at least he wasn’t after my ass, he was after my soul. In any event, went to a beautiful country church, whole thing was like out of a Disney Movie, then the preaching came, and it was the first I’d heard of the Prosperity Doctrine - that is, your material blessing are a reflection of how satisfied Jesus was with your commitment to the Church. The more I heard the more it pissed me off inside. Now I’m no fool, and know how to behave and got through the weekend alright, keeping my mouth shit, watching and nodding. Though the next day at work I managed to unload on him that that shit had nothing to do with Jesus and Christianity it was all about greed, it was horrible stuff in my book. Needless to say our easy friendship was over, but I learned a lot. Though I never imagined how that mindset was going to take over this country. Silly happy hippy that I was.

 

There were plenty of opportunities in the 80s and that coincided with those vulnerable college years for me. As Bill Hicks said at that time when joking about the Iraqi’s having the 3rd largest army, “There’s a big drop off after the first two armies. The Moonies are the 4th largest army, and they have all our airports.”

So, I went to a few intro meetings, and got stopped a couple times on campus, but I sniffed out the bad ones. I did the est training eventually, which has been labeled a cult, but has been studied more than once and has come out looking pretty good. I am one of the data points in the Yankelovich study. In answer to the question, I know how to evaluate the data.

The biggest risk factor for somebody joining a cult is a lack of strong social ties, by far.

It is not a coincidence that cults flourish in highly developed regions like North America and Western Europe where there are plenty of smart, extremely well educated, open minded, cosmopolitan liberals who are also completely atomized. It’s also not a coincidence that cults have become more common in the post WW2 era when older religious and ethnic communities started breaking down, divorce became more common, families got smaller, etc.

People never join cults for intellectual reasons, they join them because basically, they’re lonely.

No future cultist here.

For some reason I can’t not think about what I hear. No matter how inconsequential the message, my brain automatically tries to find a fault or loophole or other mistake in it. All advertisements, news stories and conversations gets the same treatment.

This puts me at odds with most people I know and I’m branded as kind of an odd thinker (which is odd because it’s due to me actually thinking).

But at least I’m immune to cults! Yay!

"The biggest risk factor for somebody joining a cult is a lack of strong social ties, by far."

“People never join cults for intellectual reasons, they join them because basically, they’re lonely.”


I’d like to see a source for that. Yes, some lonely people join cults, but I’d say there are other, more significant, factors at play.

You named two great factors ("…well educated, open minded…") that I think are far more likely reasons for joining a cult than loneliness.

Educated and open minded people that have crappy reasoning skills are as common as dirt. Gather them in large numbers, like in the 60’s and 70’s hey-day of cults, and you have the ingredients for cult soup (merely add a pinch of narcissistic egomaniacs, and voilà.)

You’d be very hard pressed to create a cult of lonely people with great reasoning skills.

3point14rat you must have be awake the day they taught critical thinking in school. Your old teacher would be proud.

Yipes, I hear what you are saying, but are you talking about the creators and leaders of cults or their sheople? A little while ago someone told me how educated and successful the Heaven’s Gate suiciders were. Then I poked around, found some magazine that did a little profile on each - what i read sounded more like a group of struggling mediocres, I found many hints of lost and lonely woven into their story.

But, I don’t know. I don’ know much about cults, I do know a little bit about walking the streets and getting to know some of the lost and discarded folks out their. It’s rather shocking how many their are, so that’s where my bias comes from.

...are you talking about the creators and leaders of cults or their sheople?
I'm talking about the sheople. They're the ones who join a cult in spite of an education.

I think that a bit of education can turn some people with low critical thinking skills into easier targets for cults than if they were less educated- going to post-secondary school can inflate their perceived ability to detect religious/pseudoscientific/conspiratorial ideas, far beyond what they actually are. Thinking you’re educated and openminded but lacking critical thinking skills is a bad combination.

…-what i read sounded more like a group of struggling mediocres.
Yes, many aren't highly educated, but they're usually not high school dropouts either. (There are tons of exceptions and I don't know the actual statistics, but I'm willing to bet that's true.)

It’s the middle ground of just a few years of college or university that can lead many to their downfall. I think after more and more education they’re less likely to fall for bad ideas (but it’s still possible.)

 

...so that’s where my bias comes from.
My bias comes from recently watching a Netflix series about some cult from India that moved to the States back in the 70's (I think). They're mostly smart and outgoing people who fall for completely crazy ideas. I think the name of the series was Wild Wild Country.

Come to think of it I knew a serious devoted Moonie once (Silverton days early 80s), hippy-ish kind of gentle guy - yet he managed to get along with a bunch of redneck hard rock millers well enough - and he operated the crushing plant for many years.

Guess that’s why they say it takes all types.

Guess that’s why they say it takes all types.
I've said that many many times.

But I always wonder what things would be like if only people who thought more like me were around. Would I be bored or living in utopia or would the small differences take the place of the huge differences we have in the world now?

I’m leaning towards the ‘utopia’ option. :wink:

I could ramble on this topic for too long. It’s kind of a hobby. Cults are pretty easy to spot once they get past the phase of initial enrollment. Stepping into one from the outside, you can see the logical problems and self-delusion. But, early on, they usually have a mission that many of us would agree with, something about being inclusive, like Jim Jones, or about health and creativity, see “Holy Hell”, or achieving your dreams, as in any motivational speaker. The leader then gets drunk on the power, or realizes the mission is not achievable, or never wanted anything but your money, or some combination, so the impossible promises are made and the early adopters believe they can do it.

I think the “Holy Hell” movie is as good example, because the group stayed so small. You can see that if just a few dozen people work together, you can build houses, write and produce plays, and fund one person who might even have a few good ideas. That one person can spend their day coming up with new meditations and counseling people and generally scheming and at least creating an illusion that you are working toward something. It can be as good as the best set of friends you’ve ever had. Until someone sets the house on fire, David Koresh style.

“Wild, Wild Country” also gives you some great behind the scenes interviews of people who still keep the faith even after the guru gave up and ran away. Unfortunately that one started in India, so I don’t know what was the original draw. Maybe he was just capitalizing on the culture of India.

I’d like to see a source for that. Yes, some lonely people join cults, but I’d say there are other, more significant, factors at play.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8234595

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0165178116319941

https://thehumanist.com/news/hnn/why-new-religions-the-sociology-of-cults-and-the-need-to-belong

 

Thanks for those links thatoneguy. I made the mistake, not you.

You’re correct that a lack of social ties is a major contributing factor on how susceptible a person is to falling for a cult.

I was talking about what I think contributes to the greatest number of people joining cults (educated but with a lack of critical thinking skills), while you were talking about the traits an individual has that influence their likelihood of joining a cult (lack of social ties).

We’re talking about completely different and overlapping aspects of cult membership, so I take back everything I said that sounds like I think you’re wrong.

Sorry, my bad.

A confluence, so to speak.

 

 

(sometimes its fun to wind up at the top of a page, other times it takes all the fun out of the comment.

Refer to previous comments.)

(sometimes its fun to wind up at the top of a page, other times it takes all the fun out of the comment.

Refer to previous comments.)


Ugh! I hate being the first comment. Having to go from page to page to read the previous post is annoying.

Why can’t they have one page? Who cares how long it is?

I’ve actually considered starting a cult, but I’m just not dishonest, crazy or dickish enough to bilk people out of their belongings. Since I’ve considered how easy it would be to start one I’m relatively certain I wouldn’t join one. That and I’m pretty antisocial. I like people, I just don’t want to see or talk to them. This is literally the ONLY form of social media I am using right now. And by “this” I mean this single forum. And by “right now” I mean “If forums and comments sections don’t count I have never used social media”.

Why can’t they have one page? Who cares how long it is?
Dude! Have you SEEN my post in the religion section. EVERYBODY cares how long it is!
I’ve actually considered starting a cult, but I’m just not dishonest, crazy or dickish enough to bilk people out of their belongings. Since I’ve considered how easy it would be to start one I’m relatively certain I wouldn’t join one.
I'm definitely not charismatic enough to collect followers. If I were to start one, it would be the most benign and inexpensive cult ever. The teachings would be how to not fall for crap, with no money requirements (maybe potluck suppers though- I love food.)
That and I’m pretty antisocial. I like people, I just don’t want to see or talk to them.
I used to think I was antisocial, but determined that a better term would be non-social, since I'm not against being around people and having friends over.
This is literally the ONLY form of social media I am using right now. And by “this” I mean this single forum. And by “right now” I mean “If forums and comments sections don’t count I have never used social media”.
Facebook is the only social media I have, and it's only because the sports I play are organized through it.
Dude! Have you SEEN my post in the religion section. EVERYBODY cares how long it is!
I meant the length of the entire page. I see no benefit in chopping a thread into multiple pages when it's possible to just have one long one. Maybe there's a benefit to clicking back and forth, but I don't know what it is.

As for excessively long posts, I tend to ignore them for a couple of reasons: 1) I do this at work and don’t have time to read that much text, especially if I want to understand it to respond, and 2) that length of post will have so many ideas that a response would require far longer than the reading time. If I were bed-ridden and had no other life outside of posting here, I’d gladly dig into scientific journal-length posts, but unfortunately I’m healthy and have to get out of bed in the morning.

Thanks everybody!

Some thoughts so far.

@Timb

》Because they are creepy.《
That seems totally obvious, doesn't it? The creepy thing about cults, though, is they never seem creepy to those who join them.

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@citizenschallengev3

》83ish ... I never imagined how that mindset was going to take over this country. Silly happy hippy that I was.《
You had the gift of prophesy!!
I’m not searching for someone to provide thee answers for me.
This seems super key in avoiding cults.

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@lausten

》There were plenty of opportunities in the 80s and that coincided with those vulnerable college years for me. 《
As deeply as I was influenced by 1980s Evangelicalism in college, it's interesting to note I never actually JOINED Campus Crusade or Navigators because I didn't like the PEOPLE.
》But, early on, they usually have a mission that many of us would agree with, something about being inclusive, like Jim Jones《
Studying up on the original Peoples Temple freaked me out a bit -- I'd have found their beliefs really compelling, earlier in my life. And objectively, Jones got a lot of good stuff done in the beginning.

But “inclusivity” is also something that made Jones different. Most cults focus more on EXclusivity, on “us” vs “them,” on protection from an enemy (even if they have to create one).

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@thatoneguy

》The biggest risk factor for somebody joining a cult is a lack of strong social ties, by far.《
I wonder if it's more a disruption of social ties, even in those who do have them. I've heard lots of stories of people raised in big, supportive families, with strong networks of friends ... who move away for college and get immediately sucked in. They can't handle being alone. Lifetime "loners" don't seem attracted to cults because they're not attracted to ANY groups of people.

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@3point14rat

》No future cultist here... I’m immune to cults! 《
Be careful! The experts would say this makes you more susceptible, not less! ;)
》For some reason I can’t not think about what I hear. ... my brain automatically tries to find a fault or loophole or other mistake in it.
Yes! This! Me too! (Now, anyway. I don't think it was always the case.) I am constantly checking my bias, and others' bias.

I have to think this is another important factor in avoiding cults…recognizing there’s always a chance that someone else is wrong, or that you are.

At least today we have Google. When you meet a person or hear about a group, you can at least find out what others have said about them. And yet … we still have cults.

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@widdershins

》I’ve actually considered starting a cult...《
Long story short: My ex was a pastor. He was brilliant, charismatic, and a malignant narcissist. Our church always stayed very small, despite our efforts to grow.

I think he was “missing” two ingredients: he wasn’t interested in money or material success, and he wasn’t apocalyptic. I think if he’d had more greed or urgency, he would have been a very successful cult leader.