Jul 27, 2021

CultNEWS101 Articles: 7/27/2021 (Mother Teresa, Podcast, QAnon, Term Cult, QAnon, ICSA Event)

Mother Teresa, Podcast, QAnon, Term Cult, QAnon, ICSA Event

The Turning: Highway of Broken Glass (Part nine - Is this a cult? How do you leave?  Janja Lalich)
"Thousands of women gave up everything to follow Mother Teresa, joining her storied Catholic order, the Missionaries of Charity. But some found that life inside this fiercely private religious order was not what they'd imagined. Former sisters who worked closely with Mother Teresa describe her bold vision and devotion to charity and prayer. But they also share stories of suffering and forbidden love, abuse and betrayal. If you make a lifelong vow, what does it mean to break it? What is the line between devotion and brainwashing? Can you truly give yourself to God?"

Religion Dispatches: 'Cult' Is An Inaccurate, Unhelpful and Dangerous Label for Followers of Trump, QAnon, and 1/6
In the twentieth century the word "cult" (originally meaning "worship") became a pejorative word that people apply to a group or movement that they do not like and perhaps fear. The word "cult" implies a stereotype that involves what sociologist James T. Richardson has termed the "myth of the omnipotent leader" and a corresponding "myth of the passive, brainwashed follower." These are just that: myths. They're inaccurate assumptions about groups and movements with unconventional beliefs: no leader can become a dictator without complicit lieutenants who prop up his (or her) authority; the "brainwashing thesis" has been judged to be unscientific by the American Psychological Association and American judges and has been debunked by social scientists; in fact, people frequently change their minds and leave a group when they lose faith in its ideology.

In 2013 I wrote an essay titled "The Problem Is Totalism, Not Cults," which argues that instead of using the pejorative word "cult," which prevents unbiased research and dehumanizes believers, the term "totalism" better conveys what people were actually worried about: groups whose members live in isolated communities, where people are controlled and not permitted to leave when they choose. Such totalistic institutions range from some unconventional religious or political groups to prisons, concentration camps, and authoritarian governments of nations. Americans generally agree that they're abusive.

Currently it's fashionable to use the word "cult" to describe all sorts of groups and movements that people don't like. It's said that people who support former President Donald Trump constitute a "cult"; the diffuse QAnon movement is called a "cult"; and the January 6, 2021 insurrection against the United States Congress meeting in the Capitol has been alleged to be a "cult." However, these are diffuse movements, not insulated, totalistic communities. "Cult" used in this manner is constructed to refer to the worst characteristics that people can imagine, which is what Yale historian Joanne Freeman did in a June 22, 2021 podcast with Boston College historian Heather Cox Richardson (no relation to James T. Richardson) when Freeman stated that members of a "cult" believe their side is righteous and that anyone opposed to them is evil and "must be defeated, executed."

A statement like this says more about what Freeman imagines a "cult" to be than it does about the research of scholars who have studied alternative and emergent religious movements, including millennial movements. Starting by imposing one's own constructed definition of "cult" on movements and groups inhibits careful investigation and analysis, as indicated by Freeman and Heather Cox Richardson comparing the QAnon movement to three different historical episodes in entirely different communal contexts: the Salem Witch Trials in 1692-1693, the Oneida Perfectionist community, and Jonestown.

"I wrote my 4th book, The Cult of Trump for Simon and Schuster and it was published on October 15th, 2019. In it, I discuss the stereotypical profile of many cult leaders: that of malignant narcissism and compare Trump with Moon, Hubbard, LaRouche, Jones, and others. I discuss his childhood and influences, including his father Fred, Norman Vincent Peale, Roy Cohn and others and go into the history of propaganda and disinformation, then persuasive communication patterns of a cult leader's playbook. Then to influencers like Putin, The Family, Opus Dei, New Apostolic Reformation, Libertarians, the Alt-right, the NRA and other groups with agendas which include Dominionism as well as shrinking the government. I discuss the followers and then have a chapter on how to talk with true believers, using my Strategic Interactive Approach. It is clear that calling names only further polarization. So does saying the other side is brainwashed. Effective communication demands understanding how people are believing and how they are operating."

International Cultic Studies Association (ICSA): 2021 Conference is Still Available
The 2021 online annual conference was a great success, with more than 425 attendees!! If you missed it, no problem, because for the FIRST TIME EVER -- you have the opportunity to watch 65 conference session recordings until August 15, 2021!

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