The line between delusion and what the rest of us believe may be blurrier than we think.
Some scholars theorize that levels of religiosity and cultic affiliation tend to rise in proportion to the perceived uncertainty of an environment.
The less control we feel we have over our circumstances, the more likely we are to entrust our fates to a higher power.
Americans, it is argued, experience significantly more economic precarity than people in nations with stronger social safety nets and consequently are more inclined to seek alternative sources of comfort.
Acknowledging that joining a cult requires an element of voluntary self-surrender obliges us to consider whether the very relinquishment of control isn’t a significant part of the appeal. In HBO’s NXIVM documentary, “The Vow,” a former member says, “Nobody joins a cult. Nobody. They join a good thing, and then they realize they were fucked.” The man speaking is a veteran not only of NXIVM but also of Ramtha’s School of Enlightenment, a group in the Pacific Northwest led by a woman. To join one cult may be considered a misfortune; to join two looks like a predilection for the cult experience.
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