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chaosmage comments on How to talk rationally about cults - Less Wrong Discussion

6 Post author: Viliam 08 January 2017 08:12PM

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Comment author: chaosmage 10 January 2017 02:37:02PM *  2 points [-]

I want to downvote it because it lazily rehashes outdated clich├ęs.

This type of description of "cults" has always had a bunch of problems. Let's be generous and disregard the "cult" label (although it is entirely discredited in the scientific study of what is now referred to as New Religious Movements) because we can replace it with some other word. Still, this does not look at actual existing cults at all. People's Temple self-destructed almost 40 years ago. There are thousands of other cults (tens of thousands if you include Asia) and this description disregards all of them. It has no basis of data whatsoever.

What it has is a "checklist" of criteria that are very fuzzy and offer no clarity on what is or isn't a cult. All these do is provide a lot of threatening language to reinforce the idea that cults are dangerous. Which is not a proven fact. There's solid evidence certain specific group have certain specific dangers - Scientology is the big one. But "cultishness" in general, i.e. basically religiosity with heightened tribalism, is not established to be dangerous. [Edit: Not established to be more dangerous than mainstream religion.] And this type of "cult checklist" narrative distracts from this simple fact by just piling vague threatening assertions onto vague threatening assertions.

I would downvote this anywhere, but on LW, where we're supposed to think critically, check our sources and believe only what we have good reason to believe, it seems particularly inappropriate.

Comment author: entirelyuseless 10 January 2017 04:38:53PM 0 points [-]

I agree with your definition of "cultishness" as "religiosity with heightened tribalism." I think it is very, very obvious that this is more dangerous than mainstream religion and not something that needs some special method to "establish."

Comment author: bogus 10 January 2017 05:14:46PM 0 points [-]

"religiosity with heightened tribalism." I think it is very, very obvious that this is more dangerous than mainstream religion

Well, that depends what you mean by "mainstream religion" then, doesn't it? I mean, obviously Taoism, Buddhism (most varieties thereof, at least) and even Sufi Islam are not particularly dangerous, but some mainstream religions are in fact intensely tribal.