Cults are Bad.

So says the wizard who invented a religion on the internet.

A cult isn’t a bunch of people who like something. A cult is a bunch of assholes who are doing fucked up shit to people for harmful reasons— often without their knowledge or consent.

Warning: I’m about to critique a “cult” in a way that relies on promoting a spiritual humanist movement I designed as a though experiment/profound religious experience. You’re gonna want to put on your hip waders and prepare for a bunch of hypocritical bullshit. As you’ll see: the thing I’m presenting here could also form a cult or inspire cult-like behaviour. But hey, so can brands. Capitalism is the most powerful tool we’ve developed for creating cults.

This is all inspired by a news story about a bunch of folks doing the type of thing that triggers me the most. There’s a bunch of bad words in here, k?

“CULTS ARE BAD!”, yelled the angry wizard on the internet.

I’m definitely the type of person doing the type of thing that can lead to the creation of a cult: just look at my about page on Medium. I’ve been doing this shit for years. I’m very aware of how this all looks and where it could go.

I’m an expert in a bunch of things. One of those things is understanding the mindset of assholes who might start cults.

This looks like a bunch of assholes doing shady shit:

Look at that bullshit. Interjecting themselves into the hiring practice of one of the most powerful entities in the world in order to duplicitously “save” people without their knowledge or consent — all as a result of a value system that has not been proven and may not be provable. It’s fucking absurd. You know they’re doing shit they wouldn’t accept if other people would had done it, but of course, they’re different. Right? We know how it goes (just not when it’s us).

There’s obviously been worse cults than this but that doesn’t mean this isn’t obviously manipulative and harmful.

Shame on these assholes.

This is what always happens. Some elite individual or group thinks they know the way things should be, and they people don’t listen to them. When they can’t convince people to consider their perspective, and aren’t willing to step back from it for whatever reason, they compromise themselves through ill-intended behaviour and self-deception.

It’s never been easier to form a cult, or invent a religion, or discover a god. These are all activities that are reliant on the psychological technology of our minds and that technology is the most evolved it’s ever been.

We have incredible access to an amazing variety of ideologies, views, options, and modes of thought. We use this information, these structures, to scaffold increasingly complex systems of comprehension around our minds. We all do this, because it’s part of living, and some people are more deliberate about it. Those people can be the most dangerous.

I’m pretty sure I’m qualified to say that because it applies to me. If I’ve seemed reasonable throughout the past few paragraphs let’s all take a step back and consider that I spent a few years inventing a religion. (I tell people about it, I made it democratic and won’t run it. I don’t ask people to join it. Negative reactions to my behaviour are valid and warranted. I’m doin weird shit. )

The Fellowship of Friends

Just to be clear: I believe these people believe they are well intended, I don’t believe they’re attempting to cause harm or be “evil”, and I believe they genuinely thought their efforts served the public good. I don’t agree with their approach, and would submit as evidence of this fact my approach to achieving similar goals having been radically different, but I don’t think they’re monsters or anything. I’m certain some people do.

I definitely think they’re assholes though. I’m allowed to use that word because I’m an asshole too.

Related:

I know I’m an asshole. I own it and admit it. Inventing a weird religion around consent, building a viable economic system system around it, and shrouding it all in socially challenging language & terminology in order to prove a point about global civilization and the human condition is something only an asshole would do.

A bunch of these Friendly Fellows are probably experiencing massive levels of cognitive dissonance about the press they’re getting over this, and are likely incapable of resolving how the world actually is with how they want it to be. This is happening to them because they know they’re good people but everyone now thinks they’re doing a bad thing — which they did — and their internal state is irreconcilable with actual reality. (Like our global civilization and UAP, like our systems of science and the undiscovered physics of consciousness, like the United States and late-stage capitalism.)

When this happens our brains get all wobbly and we make dumb decisions. We become fueled by self-deception and an unwillingness to view ourselves as others do. I spend a lot of time thinking about cognitive empathy — or perspective taking. One of the things I often see lacking in circles that discuss cognitive empathy is taking the perspectives of people who dislike or disagree with us. It’s much easier to have cognitive empathy for a detached or disconnected individual or group, as opposed to someone who thinks you’re an asshole.

It’s very easy to choose not to form cognitive empathy with people who think we’re being an asshole, so we reject the view that we’re an asshole.

These people are obviously assholes.

There’s no way you can be party of a plot to implement some sort of metaphysical system or change onto the people, especially at scale and without their consent, without being an asshole. Only an asshole would think to do that. These people are assholes. This cult-like religion contains folks that are being assholes.

I’m sure they’re other things too, and I imagine that they’re nice and hard working people (like basically everyone else), but none of that means they’re not being assholes right here with this shit.

I don’t really worry very much about what people think of me. There’s no sense wasting my energy on that, I’ve accepted that most people will by default think negative things about me from now until the world stops being the way it is. I might have a weird superpower because of this. In a world terrified of cancel culture I’ve gone ahead and pre-cancelled myself. My behaviour clearly mandates full and total cancellation in the eyes of many, so I don’t worry about that at all, and this allows me to think very hard about how we’re treating each other.

Cults are bad

The Church of Earth, which is a name I deliberately chose knowing it would be really challenging for people to consider, could be a fantastically effective tool for the creation and dissemination of cults and cult-like behaviour. This is a thing that I’m very aware of because it’s a thing I designed a user-experience to avoid.

There’s a lot of folks to follow for useful information about cults, and cult-like behaviour. This is especially relevant now because there’s a bunch of cults or pseudo-cults popping up all over the political spectrum. I’d suggest starting with Steven Hassan, especially for insight into the cult-like aspects of QAnon.

The solution to preventing cults and cult-like behaviour always includes transparency and openness. You can’t save people in secret because you can’t really save anyone — at best you can only help them save themselves. Technology which enables these features — either digital technology like social media platforms or psychological technology like ideologies, religions, or brands — is technology which creates healthier communities.

I wrote a relevant poem. It’ll be in my second book of poetry: Fight the World

The Fight Against Secularism

They don’t think you feel the way you feel.
It isn’t shared and can’t be real
because it isn’t happening to them.

Things used to work quite differently.
They also worked out horribly
religious wars cost many lives of men.

The bits of faith that can’t be proved
can be ignored but not removed
from the many varied systems that we share.

The ingenious complexity
resulting in civility
mandates that faith be levied everywhere.

The magical economy
which manifests society
has priests and gods and spiritual lore.

While collaborative sciences
–formed of strange alliances–
risk echoing the errors from before.

Your beliefs are not enough
to Will the world to force it such.
When forcing out a faith you find a lie.

Frustrating though this state may be
it can’t be changed–quite rightfully.
So love may be the only good reply.

The default’s where the battle’s won.
It can’t be proved but everyone
believes in something similarly broad.

Conclusions reached dogmatically
form into faith-–invariably
including lack of evidence for God.

The certainty of unifiers
that every frightened heart desires
leads us straight to yet another stupid war.

When it’s viewed democratically
the faith of all humanity
points clearly to belief in something more.

I’m sharing this poem here to highlight that I really, really understand where The Fellowship of Friends is coming from. I get what they’re trying to do. I understand their goals and purpose. I likely share them in some way. Frankly, based on the current state of things, I suspect I’ve thought way harder about how to achieve these goals than they have.

I’m so incredibly disappointed in how much harm their failed efforts will cause. I hope they’re able to truly understand where they went wrong here in order to correct their approach and remedy their failures, if possible.

As to how they should resolve this? I dunno. But I’m sure that addressing this through performative displays of disingenuous emotions broadcast to media which primarily serve the corporate entities that they serve in their professional lives would probably be a mistake.

If by some chance someone from FoF reads this: You and your friends can’t form a well-intended fellowship if you’re doing your shit in the shadows without the consent of the people you’re influencing. That’s what the bad guys do. Your approach is wrong or your intent is false. Which is it and how will you change?

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Eric Lortie

Eric Lortie

Artist. Human. Software Engineer. Wizard. Nonviolent Extremist. https://wizard.bio/