Are Conspiracy Believers a Cult?

A group of protestors and counter-protestors is tying up the area near my office every Saturday. In this case, they’re calling themselves the Freedom movement and protesting health mandates, but they remind me of a group I wrote about on the blog a few years back. At the time, I examined whether conspiracy believers are a cult.

The 2011 Doomsday Prediction

The late Mr. Harold Camping and his Family Radio organization are best known for their commitment to a theory the world would end (or begin to end) on May 28, 2011. Many of Camping’s followers gave up their worldly possessions in the weeks before he predicted Rapture would put the end of the world into motion.

As May 21 came and went, there was a happy ending to that story. Well, for most of us. Perhaps not for Mr. Camping, who lost much of his following.

Are Conspiracy Believers a Cult?

We get a glimpse into the nature of Camping’s rise and fall when we examine the typical qualities of cult leaders.

At the time, I referred to the book “Captive Hearts, Captive Minds” by Madeleine Landau, Tobias and Janja Lalich, where I learned the requisite qualifications for successful cult leadership include:

  • An outstanding ability to charm and win over followers.
  • The gift of effortlessly commanding attention.
  • Narcissism so extreme and grandiose that they exist in a kind of splendid isolation in which the creation of the grandiose self “takes precedence over legal, moral or interpersonal commitments.”

When we hear the word “cult,” we tend to think of the groups that draw ridicule like Camping’s doomsday believers. Either that or the ones that end in tragedy like the Branch Davidians or Jonestown. However, there are plenty of organizations whose operating policies match the definition of a cult, some of them in our own neighbourhoods.

What we Believe to be True is True

As we have so often discussed, I believe we define ourselves by what we believe to be true, and we diligently sell our truth to all who choose to buy it. Then, we ask them to sell it to others.

That’s how one version of the truth spreads: recruiting others to our way of thinking.

Undoubtedly, those still protesting and, in some cases allowing their cause to “take precedence over legal, moral and interpersonal commitments,” are deeply committed to their version of the truth. 

Both sides might do well to consider that their opponents believe their truth to be “the” truth. 

So arguably, anytime we have been able to convince even one person to join us in our way of thinking, we have demonstrated our worthiness to become a cult leader.

Consider this; if you have ever convinced anyone to change their opinion about anything and embrace yours, you may be the next Mr. Camping.

Till we read again.

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