To the editor:
Historically, there have been thousands of cults. Three prominent types are Political, Religious and New Age.
Political, racist, or terrorist cults are fueled by belief in changing society by overthrowing the perceived enemy or getting rid of evil forces. The leader professes to be all knowing and all powerful. Groups tend to operate as secret cells. Often members of the group are armed and ready to engage in violent activities. Sometimes these groups meet in secret with coded language and handshakes. Members consider themselves an elite cadre ready to go to battle. Practices include paramilitary training, instilled paranoia, and long hours of indoctrination.
Religious cults are marked by belief in a higher being, sometimes combined with an apocalyptic view. The leader reinterprets Scripture and often claims to be a prophet. Often members are encouraged to spend a great deal of time proselytizing. Practices and influence techniques include speaking in tongues, chanting, praying, lengthy study sessions, faith healing, self-flagellation, or many hours witnessing.
New Age cults are founded on belief in the “You are God” philosophy wanting to know the future, or find the quick fix to your problems. Often the leader presents herself or himself as mystical, an ultra-spiritual being, a channeler, or a medium. New Age groups, more so than some other types, tend to have female leaders. Members rely on New Age paraphernalia, such as crystals, astrology, runes, shamanic devices, holistic medicine, herbs, spirit beings, or Tarot cards. Practices include: magic tricks, altered states, channeling, UFO sightings, faith healing, or claiming to speak with or through ascended masters or spiritual entities.
Some deplorable examples are Heaven’s Gate, Branch Dividians, The People’s Temple, Scientology, The Manson Family, and The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
Do we have a Cult of Trump?
Consider that questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged or even punished by dismissal. Other points of view are not recognized. Trump dictates how members should think, act, and feel. He is the ultimate authoritarian and his opinion must be accepted without question.
His followers have a polarized us-versus-them mentality which may cause conflict with the wider society. Trump implies that his supposedly exalted ends justify whatever means he deems necessary, and considers himself un-accountable to any authorities. This may result in members participating in behaviors or activities they would have considered unethical or unlawful before becoming a follower.
This is all characteristic of a cult.