Above: The Branch Davidian Complex in Waco, TX, on fire during an attack by the FBI
In our Essay, “Smaller Religions & Modern Cults” we discuss movements such as The Branch Davidians, Cargo Cults, The Celestine Prophecy, A Course in Miracles, Falun Gong, Christian Science, Mormonism, The Hare Krishna Movement, Heaven’s Gate, The People’s Temple (Jim Jones), The Law of Attraction, the New Age Movement, the snake-handling sects of Pentecostalism, and several others.
Here are the characteristics that readers should look for in these religions and cults:
- A handsome, charismatic, self-confident, narcissistic leader with an excellent voice.
- The Leader and his lieutenants have Secret knowledge and powers that outsiders do not have. (e.g., the power to forgive sins).
- A path that offers integrated, Earthly solutions to all the followers’ problems.
- Offers a solution now, or at least soon (e.g., Jesus will soon return and lead a Kingdom of God on Earth).
- Communal living. Everybody is equal (except the exalted leader and his lieutenants).
- The Cult Leader often takes over the wealth of the followers.
- The Cult Leader often takes over sexual access to the young and beautiful followers.
- Promise of a special “rising up” (feeling carried away by a presence of God) that outsiders will not experience.
There is great human capacity to believe all kinds of nonsense – The “vortexes” of Sedona Arizona, “auditing” in Scientology, the healing power of crystals, rejection of modern medicine, the Angel Moroni, the cult-like Communism of the Khmer Rouge, speaking in tongues, and the burning of witches.
Only the light of reason, critical thinking, and intellectual inquiry stands against such nonsense.