Mike: What is a cult?
Virginia: You have the Wikipedia up on your tablet.
Mike: The Wikipedia says that the main differentiation between a cult and a religious movement is brainwashing.
Andrew: That makes sense.
Virginia: I always heard that it was if your leader was dead, you were in a religion.
Andrew: That seems arbitrary.
Virginia: Why is that arbitrary?
Nick: What about Satanic cults?
Virginia: What are you asking?
Nick: Is Satan dead?
Virginia: The question is, “What constitutes brainwashing?” Is it a majority opinion?
Mike: According to this, it usually applies to new religious movements that are weird or bizarre.
Nick: That’s not a good definition. There’s tons of things that other religions do that seems weird or bizarre to us. In Catholicism, taking Communion, in the abstract, means that you take a piece of bread, turn it into flesh, and eat it.
Andrew: When you put it that way, it sounds weird.
Virginia: I actually had this conversation with my cousin who is Catholic. She kept denying that she was a cannibal, yet she insisted that she was eating the body of Jesus during Communion.
Nick: That’s because He’s a god.
Virginia: So it’s cannibalism 2.0?
Nick: He’s more than just human.
Virginia: Again. 2.0.
Andrew: Here’s the definition of mind control. It refers to a process in which a group or individual uses manipulative techniques to get others to conform to his or her wishes, often to the detriment of the person being manipulated.
Nick: I think that’s a good definition. When people brainwash, they take off your sources to the outside world.
Andrew: Once you’re down the rabbit hole, it’s hard to break free. Even if you decide you want out, it’s hard. You lose the ties to the outside world.
Nick: That’s usually part of the process.
Virginia: Maybe a good litmus test is if your family and friends say to you, “I’m not really sure this is a good idea.”
Nick: That’s pretty much any decision that your parents and friends don’t agree with. Kids that go on spiritual journey would have trouble.
Andrew: I think a good test is that the church urges you to break contact with people who don’t believe the same way.
Virginia: I don’t know. It seems like that’s a message I got in a Baptist church. They didn’t want members hanging out with people who weren’t religious. You were allowed to witness to people, but you couldn’t stick around long enough to have your mind “polluted.”
Nick: This is what’s crazy about Christian religions. Everyone gives Catholicism a hard time. Of the religions, Catholicism is one of the more liberal religions. A lot of the other branches of Christianity is more extreme.
Mike: Would you consider the Amish cultish? They’re fairly extreme.
Nick: They’re on the more extreme end of it. But they’re not starting wars or anything. They’re kind of a peaceful people.
Andrew: Don’t they let their kids go out into the world?
Nick: Yeah. But, in cults, you can say it might be a test of the brainwashing. “We’re just going to see if you really drank the Koolaid.”
Virginia: I actually had a job interview where they asked me to drink the Koolaid.
Andrew: Really? That’s kind of scary.
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