Blog: The Lessons of Cults plus Q&A on Scientology - 2017-11-30
Hey everyone. I'm so happy to be back here in Minneapolis to talk to you again! I honestly wondered if I was ever going to get the opportunity to return to the scene of my crimes to talk about Scientology and cults in general but thanks to my friend Penny, who went way out of her way to help me out with this, here I am. I'm going to bring this talk around to Scientology but first I thought it might be good to talk about the bigger picture with cults and cultic thinking. So here we go.
I think it's safe to say that we all want to live our lives on our own terms, according to how we feel it should be lived. We want to worship who or what we want, or not worship anything at all. We talk about ideas like "freedom" "equality" and "liberty" but often we don't put a lot of thought into what these words mean or how they manifest in our day to day lives. As a result, these kinds of words and ideas can be used to manipulate or control us.
Simply put, a cult is a group of people, whether two or two million, who are devoted to a common individual or a cause, an object, a movement or a work such as a book or film. It has a religious context as well, of a system of religious belief or rituals. The word "cult' itself goes back to the Latin word "cultus" which just means "cultivated or tended" and was the past participle of the word "colore" which means "to till." It was a farming term. It was revived in the 17th century to refer to the rituals or religious practices of ancient or primitive peoples. Fast forward to the 1940s, and the word "cult" took on a negative connotation when fundamentalist Christian groups began using it to describe religious groups they felt weren't properly interpreting the Bible such as the Mormons, Christian Scientists, Jehovah's Witnesses and even Catholics, as well as non-Christian religions such as Wicca, Islam, Paganism and Hinduism. Ironically, this kind of intolerant, us-vs-them thinking and bigotry is one of the indicators we use now to define a destructive cult. So where these fundamentalists sought to eradicate anyone or anything not conforming with their belief system, they ended up becoming what they were fighting. Hardly surprising given how witch hunts tend to go. It's a constant source of wonder and amazement to me that authoritarians never seem to learn the lessons history has to offer, namely that when you start down a road of destroying evil, you must be careful you don't become that same brand of evil. Tyrants old and new alike seem to always think the rules don't apply to them, all the way up to the point they are being stood up against a wall and shot.