Cults are held together by a strong, unquestionable shared belief. If you faithfully embrace the leader’s vision, which simplifies and explains all mysteries of this perplexing world, a great psychic relief, you are happily accepted into the community of like minded folks. Humans have practiced this form of social organization for as long as there have been humans. There have been many kinds of cults over the centuries, some tiny, some enormous, some benign, others warlike.
In general, cults divide the world into the chosen and the excluded. Outsiders who refuse to believe the truth that the cult embraces are most often seen as enemies. It is Us against Them. We are the enlightened few, the correct, the fully sighted. They are the ignorant many, too stubbornly blind and proud to submit to the knowledge of the one true way.
In a microcosm, many families function as cults. There is the dominant parent, or sibling, whose view of things is the truth in that family. In the previous post I gave the example of a family of four who believed their mother/grandmother was nuts. This explained perfectly why she was crying during the last Mother’s Day of her life, after her granddaughter had locked herself in her room in despair after being humiliated on the world wide web by her closest friends. There was really nothing to discuss, the kid had a bad day, everyone was smiling now and everything was fine, the only problem being that grandma was nuts, which is why she was sobbing for no reason during what turned out to be the last get together with everyone closest to her in the waning days of her life. Why else would she be crying?
Angry? There is a perfectly good reason — your brother/sister/father/aunt is a fucking (fill in the blank.) Would you put any evil or treachery past a malicious fuck like that? We all agree on who’s right and who’s wrong here — except for that asshole. Case closed.
In some families the entire story of interpersonal relations is explained through genetics and biochemistry. Some people are born with a predisposition to depression, self-hatred, hypochondria, panic, anger, while others, the more fortunate, come fully loaded with a preponderance of genes that make them happy, content, self-contained, confident. Just the luck of the genetic lottery, boys and girls, you could have gotten more of my wonderful genes, but you got more of the loser genes from the other contributor to your DNA. So sorry. You will be predisposed to suffer just like that poor soul, I wish there was something any of us could do to help. Don’t bother with your theories of trauma, lack of support, etc. it’s just your asshole genes trying to make excuses for not being able to get what you need in life, and your need to blame others for your shortcomings.
Cults often apply this kind of reductive reasoning to entire groups. The cult that formed around Adolf Hitler in Germany between the world wars got a forceful answer to the cause of all of their troubles and how to fix them. The cause of all human suffering, a worldwide cabal of powerful monsters who forced Germany into World War One, and then, after Germany was victorious on the battlefield, stabbed the German military and the German people in the back with a forced, humiliating surrender. The way to fix it, of course, was to hang these traitors from every lamp post in Germany before they could rape more Aryan girls and further spread their hateful seed. After the leaders were all dead you’d have iron-willed men collect the old, the children, women of childbearing age, any other males left alive and dispatch them to oblivion. A dirty job, sure, and not for the weak, but necessary for the protection and preservation of the purest, most noble bloodline in the history of mankind.
Cult is a disparaging term when used by outsiders to describe a community of true believers. It is a judgmental word that means people of a certain faith have substituted a flawed, sometimes even insane belief for any kind of rational discussion, ruled out the possibility of compromise of any kind with nonbelievers. Can you persuade someone who passionately believes American liberals drink the blood of babies they rape that this is simply not so? Good luck. Cult to death cult is not an uncommon progression. The leader says we are all going to paradise, all we have to do is fight like hell or we’re not going to have a paradise anymore! Goddamn the inhuman enemy to hell!
Maybe I’m just so negative about cults because I’ve never found the one true cult to join. There is that possibility, I guess.