You will find almost universal agreement that anyone who participates in a cult (or, organized religion of any kind) is either weak, retarded or some kind of weaktarded combination of the two. We tend to associate cults with fanaticism, assuming that they are all made up of people that wear bed sheets and live in backwoods communes pissing in Dixie cups. Thanks to high profile, apocalyptic and/or suicide cults like the Branch Davidians and Heaven’s Gate, we don’t have much reason to think otherwise.
Why it is Bullshit:
Studies show cult members are just as intelligent, if not more so, than the general public. And around 95 percent of cult members are perfectly sane (when they join up, anyway), with no history at all of real psychological problems. They’re not stupid, and they’re not crazy.
Of course this only serves to make cults even scarier. How in the hell do these groups get people–who are every bit as sane and smart as your best friend–to join up?..
Why did you do, well, every single thing you did in your teenage years?
As social animals we are hard-wired to want to belong to a group. It’s a need as basic and real as hunger or sex. When we get cut off from our group–say we lose a job, or move to a new city, or break up with our girlfriend–we go a little crazy. Cults are very, very good at finding people in that exact moment of weakness, and saying exactly the right things. Those pamphlets that sound so corny and transparent to you, read like a glorious breath of fresh air to somebody caught in one of those rough spots.
So sure, when we’re in our normal, stable state of affairs we like to imagine ourselves coolly shooting down all of the charismatic cult leader’s stupid-ass claims with the power of pure critical thinking. …
And once these people are in the cult they realize that, no, not all cult members wind up as part of some bizarre suicide ceremony. Most lead normal, successful lives.
And once they make friends with these normal, successful people, what are they going to do when they run into some smartass like the Internet commenters above, who talk about how only retarded sheeple believe that garbage? They stand up for the group, that’s what.
It’s not even about defending the beliefs at that point, it’s about defending their friends. And mindlessly doing things because all our friends do them is pretty much 90 percent of what society is.