What not-so-obvious movements do you think are cults?

First of all, many consider Scientology, the Moonies and other notorious organizations are cults. But what organizations are lying in the weeds?

Based on the NXIVM trial, and now a current investigation into OneTaste:

…are there any other organizations out there that should be investigated as a cult?

The similarities between NXIVM and One Taste are uncanny:

-Lead by charismatic individuals bestowed an almost godlike status
-Multi-marketing elements, with financial pressures on members to invest
-Creepy sexual agendas
-Pressure and overwork of organization members to recruit
-Curriculum that attempts to reorganize the thinking of recruits, and make them dependent upon it

There’s other red flags I know I am missing but I think I captured the worst of them.

So what other organizations out there that you think are secretly not widely identified as cults?

You’re going to have to define “cult” first.

I would say that Trump supporters come close. I’m not talking about republicans who vote for the party line and in general like the right’s ideals, but specifically ‘Trumpets’, people who are in love with the guy as cult members are in love with their leader. They are given a alternate reality that they have to accept at face value without any facts, unquestioningly, have a god like figure who is charismatic (and apparently above the law), members are encouraged to put their life on the line with coronavirus and not wear masks and continue to work as nothing is happening, Trump’s view of women, and his image is disgusting towards women (grab them by the pussy, wives I am sending your husbands back to work), and also wear MAGA hats.

It seems like they did listing 5 characteristics

-Lead by charismatic individuals bestowed an almost godlike status
-Multi-marketing elements, with financial pressures on members to invest
-Creepy sexual agendas
-Pressure and overwork of organization members to recruit
-Curriculum that attempts to reorganize the thinking of recruits, and make them dependent upon it

OP asks for not-so-obvious movements. There’s nothing not-so-obvious about these. They are widely described as a cult in the mainstream op-ed media, and even often described as a “death cult”.

I’m pretty partial to the Advanced Bonewits Cult Danger Evaluation Frame. Although it’s not perfect, it gives a pretty good overview of the traits of a cult.

The Landmark Forum is a bit cult-ish.

So is CrossFit.

Alcoholics Anonymous is the easy choice here.

Do they even have a leader or charge dues? Hard to say that something is a cult if no one is benefitting from exploiting its members. Not every strongly held or scientifically dubious belief is a cult, that’s the point of trying to make a distinction.

Some of the video game console fan boys cultishness is on full display right now, with the new generation releases.

I had never heard of Landmark Forum, but I had definitely heard of est, which was definitely cultish and was a pretty big thing in the 1970s.

The only one on the list that applies to AA is possibly the last.

Yeah, AA’s philosophy is problematic in a lot of ways, but they’re not a cult. Just pseudo-scientific and codependent at times.

I’ll nominate Bikram yoga, the verbally-abusive and super rapey version of bending and stretching.

Scientology is a “cult”, but no creepy sexual agendas per se. And “pressure to recruit” is not universal, either.

Most religions fall under these identifiers. Hmmm…


eta: may be a little too obvious for op

Who here remembers Synanon? 1960-1970’s era splinter off AA that purported to treat drug addictions as well as alcohol, but became an increasingly destructive cult.

Pascal programmers.

More of a hive-mind phenomenon than a cult, but hive-mind is a cult thing IMO.

Pascal has to be one of the lamest and most impractical programming languages second only to Befunge, designed at a time in software history when people should have known better.

What made it cultish was the degree to which Computer Science professors glommed onto it, indoctrinating a whole generation (and subsequently, more generations) of students and professors to believe that Pascal was God’s gift to humanity via His Prophet Saint Niklaus Wirth and that all other then-popular languages (and FORTRAN in particular) were blasphemous horsemanure.

In those days (early 1970’s especially), if a Pascal student passed by you walking on campus and noticed that FORTRAN textbook you were carrying, they would hold their nose and say “Ewwww! A FORTRAN programmer! Get me away from him!”


Many Apple users are close to being in a cult. Same is true for Open source / Linux fans.

Red Hat has HQ here and someone told me if you want a job there don’t mention Mac or Windows. They really want to hire linux true believers.

As I argued to Max S in the election day/week thread, being an ‘American’ is not just being a legal citizen it’s about adherence to principles and documents, a country founded on the idea and ideal of the primacy of the rule of law when expressed via democratic methods:

The very notion of a country full of citizens which quickly came to believe they are the shining light on the hill, citizens of a country with a manifest destiny to take all it can grab, merely because you swear an oath to believe in the primacy of the rule of law as opposed to swearing an oath to your King… seems a bit cult-like, yes?

I think you misspelled Haskell programmers. :laughing:

Second vote for Isaac Bonewits’ Cult Danger Evaluation Frame, by @Left_Hand_of_Dorkness.

Also recommend Marc Galanter’s book Cults: Faith, Healing, and Coercion. Galanter is a sociologist and has researched cults like the Moonies, Jim Jones, and a few others. He’s more even-handed than the media. He talks about AA as well, although AA does not have a single charismatic leader who controls everybody’s thinking.

I think Google is a cult, for the people that work there. I’m speaking as a former contract worker, not an FTE, but I was onsite and effectively embedded as part of a team. Their method is called “neo-normative control” and “identity management”. They were nicey-nice about 95% of the time and then some amped-up manager would savage me out of nowhere, and later deny having done so, or maybe wouldn’t even remember the incident. There was no creepy sex there, at least not on my floor.

Here’s an interesting article from Ephemera Journal by Abe Walker called Creativity loves constraints: The paradox of Google’s twenty percent time. This article was therapeutic for me, as I could not figure out why I hated working at Google so much when everybody else there seemed to love it. They kept saying “But the pellets are excellent”.