Mon, Nov 26, 2018 - Page 8 News List

The C-word: what are we saying when we talk about cults?

All kinds of violent deeds have been perpetrated in the name of religion, from wars to witch-burnings to child sex abuse cover-ups. Why don’t we use the word cult more widely?

By Laura Woollett  /  The Guardian

It’s hard to know what to make of the cult craze. In some ways, it seems to be an extension of our enthusiasm for all things vintage — think “cult”, and you’ll likely think of long hair, folk blouses, a groovy soundtrack — combined with our enduring craving for sex and violence in media. Yet the appeal of stories about people adopting alternative lifestyles, often involving communal living and a return to nature, might be further explained by the frustrations of late-stage capitalist society and growing anxieties about climate change.

Whatever the explanation, I believe that the current popularity of cult stories presents an opportunity for these stories to be told differently — more sympathetically, with an emphasis on the humanity of followers rather than just the bloodshed and crazy-charismatic leaders. Because, ultimately, cult stories are human stories. They’re stories of community, the search for meaning and a better life. In such stories, we can all find a bit of ourselves.

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