With Quentin Tarantino set to write and direct the latest movie to take a stab at the Manson Family murders and the strange sexual allegations that surround R&B singer R. Kelly, cults seem to be at the forefront of everyone’s mind. The topic of cults feed into our morbid curiosity because they’re associated with negative and frightening events. How does a group of people fall under the spell of one person and decide to alter their lifestyle according to what they say? How does one leader have the charisma required to lure people in?
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Cults are like religions because they give people a sense of belonging and they give meaning to their lives. They are associated with kooky stuff – like The Beatles and considering someone the second coming of Christ – and they’re not respected by most people because they haven’t withstood the test of time. We can all believe that Jesus walked on water, but we draw the line when a random person says that they can do the same.
A good example of this religion Vs cult argument is the Church of Scientology, which is basically a sci-fi novel (it’s founder, L. Ron Hubbard, was in fact a science fiction and fantasy writer) but it’s considered a religion because it has existed for over 60 years, it’s got its own church with a detailed set of beliefs, and it has more than 10 million followers including Tom Cruise. Scientology can’t be dismissed as a cult, even though one of it’s main beliefs is that man is really an immortal alien called a Thetan.
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You might think that a person must be crazy to join a cult and to submit themselves to this lifestyle, but it’s surprisingly simple if they’re young or susceptible enough to fall under someone else’s influence. Cult leaders create their own reality and separate their group from the outside world. By creating this divide, they make their followers believe that they’re the ones who hold the truth and that they’re right, while the rest of the world is wrong. Does this ring any bells with any of your religious beliefs?
Most of us come from some sort of religious background, be that catholicism, judaism, or the muslim faith. These religions already have some stories that defy nature and that explore the supernatural. Charming cult leaders take this and exploit it, providing their own version of miracles and their own spin on these tales that fosters their god-like image and create devotion from their followers.
Sadly, most cult leaders exploit and prey upon other people’s weaknesses, which is why cults are associated with so many controversies and tragedies. The only way to prevent these is to have the necessary knowledge and to know when someone’s full of shit.