Monday, July 9, 2012


At the risk of setting others' hair on fire, I wonder today about "cults." An internet dictionary gives a relatively benign definition of something that can be laced with enormous anguish, hypnotic adherence, and vast expressions of adoration:

-- a religious group, especially one with beliefs that most people consider strange or dangerous
-- a religious system in which people worship a particular god, person, or object
-- extreme admiration for someone or something
-- very popular with a particular group of people
In English, the most common use of the word "cult" carries with it a sense of disapproval. And usually what is being described finds its foundation in something that does not excite an agitated disapproval. 
In 1978, for example, Jim Jones inspired 909 Peoples Temple followers to commit suicide in Jonestown, Guyana. His teachings found their roots in Christianity, a religion that many accept as benign and useful and worthy of respect. But mass suicide is not part of the program. Perhaps another example may be found in the Muslim-based gyrations of Osama bin Laden, the man who took credit for the World Trade Center bombings in 2001. Serious Islamist scholars find his theology riddled with error, but his followers were pretty adamant.
And other examples abound ... and not just in religious environs: A good thing is used for bad purposes, roughly. And those bad purposes would be lost without the founding good thing. The two are as entwined as a DNA double helix; neither can escape the other's grasp.
But where anyone might praise the good and damn the bad ... well, why not turn it around. If a good thing is used for bad purposes ....
Isn't it also true that it is a bad thing used for good purposes?

Is this sensible or accurate?

It makes me wonder about the cults in my mind.

1 comment:

  1. Regarding a bad thing used for good purposes, I recall reading an ad campaign that essentially used the ego or vanity of Texans to help reduce litter on Texas highways. Manipulative perhaps, but it's claimed to have reduced littering by up to 72% for a period of time, when all other attempts to reduce the littering had failed. Don't Mess with Texas!