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    • There has always been a conversation about whether Mormonism is a cult, I think? (For anyone who is not aware, Chris and I both have had an insider’s view of Mormonism.)

      I tend to think there is an element of personal surrender built-in to the Mormon experience. Inside, it is revered as “obedience” and “faith.”

      As historical research started to reveal some of the uglier sides of the so-called first modern-day Mormon Prophet (Joseph Smith), I think the church has tried to downplay its personality-focused aspects and gently transfer members’ allegiance to its 12+3 leadership model so that the cult moniker doesn’t as easily apply...

      However, the absolutism remains.

    • I’d agree that they are examples of neediness and that cults are generally built around a charismatic figure but I wouldn’t say that conspiracy theorists are being very individualistic at least not to the extreme. A great many people are conspiracy theorists and with the advent of the Internet they quickly build or find a network or group of likeminded individuals to support them in their ideas and other emotional/social/psychological needs.

    • Cults,’s all a matter of how large the following is. There’s a wide assortment of religious groups (I’d include LDS) that fall along a spectrum of beliefs and codes of conduct from the mild to extreme. Religions and cults socially evolve under various pressures and many of the things they promote are simply things that have allowed it to be more successful. You and Chris would likely get a tremendous amount of insight from the new book by Joseph Henrich called The Weirdest People in the world: how the west became psychologically peculiar and particularly prosperous. In it Henrich spends a fair bit of time showing how various western religions evolved and the drivers on how and why they changed in the ways they did. I think it helps to expose how the inherent nature of these religions or cults (call them what you will) develops in such a way that makes it more palatable that they ended up how they are. It’s easy to vilify them or make it feel like they’ve personally damaged people , but knowing why they’ve become this way sort of objectively helps a person separate the parts in a way that - at least to me - makes it more palatable or forgiveable. It is a bit more acceptable to know there are also some good things these religions did to our human psyche over hundreds or thousands of years and that it’s just our current scientific understanding that at least for myself, makes the current condition more distasteful.

    • I haven’t meant to suggest that the LDS church damages people. I don’t believe that at all. I think the LDS church creates a haven for people who need some authority outside of themselves to give them a standard by which to live. That’s not bad in and of itself. In fact, that’s exactly what good parenting is!

      It just feels like (speaking for myself) eventually, a person should grow beyond that need and establish an independent internal sense of morality and understanding. Like... grow up. Not have to always have a “general authority” tell you what to do or how to behave.

      But that’s just me...

    • I watched Merchants of Doubt again last night after remembering how great it was (and I needed a clip for a Plant Chompers video I'm making):

      Oh my God it's good, but so very depressing. Hardly anyone can resist the forces of great marketing and money when it comes to what we believe.

    • What would you call Scientology? When Hubbard was alive and dead?

      Yeah it's not a statement that 100% holds true but I think is largely accurate. It's a cut down version of "The difference between a cult and a religion: In a cult there is a person at the top who knows it's a scam. In a religion, that person is dead".

      Personally I'd call scientology a cult. The whole aliens dropping souls into volcano's thing is way more out there than the average religons imaginary sky friend. They also exert too much control over members and spend too much time and effort stalking and attacking critics for the organisation to pass muster as a group of nice people with the aim of bettering mankind to me. At least most religons can have a decent go at that.