We’re Crazy Enough Already, Ross, Thanks

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Obama Administration

Channeling his inner David Brooks, Ross Douthat has cranked out a column notably clueless even by David Brooks standards. Douthat has decided we have a deficit of whackjob religious cults.

LIKE most children of the Reagan era, I grew up with a steady diet of media warnings about the perils of religious cults — the gurus who lurked in wait for the unwary and confused, offering absolute certainty with the aftertaste of poisoned Kool-Aid. From the 1970s through the 1990s, from Jonestown to Heaven’s Gate, frightening fringe groups and their charismatic leaders seemed like an essential element of the American religious landscape.

Yet we don’t hear nearly as much about them anymore, and it isn’t just that the media have moved on.

Douthat notes that today’s “cult” leaders are a far more innocuous crew — instead of David Koresh, we get Joel Olsteen — and he thinks this is a bad thing.

The decline of cults, while good news for anxious parents of potential devotees, might actually be a worrying sign for Western culture, an indicator not only of religious stagnation but of declining creativity writ large.

The Branch Davidians were many things, but I never thought of them as creative. Anyway, Douthat quotes a couple of guys, one of which says that a wild religious fringe is a sign of a healthy center, and “a religious culture that lacks for charismatic weirdos may lack ‘a solid core of spiritual activism and inquiry’ as well.” Another guy says that “fewer crazy cults” are a sign that “we have given up our sense of wonder at secrets left to be discovered.”

If it’s creativity Douthat is worried about, he should rest assured there’s plenty of it out there, and most of it is in his party. Consider such creative folks as Ben Carson, Ted Cruz and Laura Ingraham, who on Friday told her radio audience that President Obama plans to expose our troops to Ebola to make up for colonialism. David Koresh was a slacker compared to such as these.

You don’t hear a lot about people being abducted by aliens any more, either, but when you’ve got a President exposing troops to ebola and crazed jihadi prayer mats / soccer jerseys mysteriously turning up in Texas, who needs UFOs?

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6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. Dukkha Earl  •  Sep 28, 2014 @10:42 pm

    Wow, what have they been putting in Douthat’s communion wafers? The crazy is strong in that one! (And to think the NYT is America’s “newspaper of record.”)

  2. Tom Hilton  •  Sep 28, 2014 @11:50 pm

    Yes, exactly: cults have become less creative because all that creativity has gone into the wingnut ‘mainstream’.

  3. SpaceSquid  •  Sep 29, 2014 @5:55 am

    Or, put another way, people don’t start religious cults anymore because the real money is in radio cults.

  4. c u n d gulag  •  Sep 29, 2014 @8:26 am

    Oy, Douchehat.
    Really?
    You wrote “An Ode to Religious Cults!”
    Religious cults?

    Religion brings on an “Endarkenment.”
    Take a look at the today’s Muslims, who centuries ago once were far, far ahead of the Christian world in math and science.
    Take a look at our current American crop of “Christian” loons, who don’t believe in science, math, and other empirical facts.

    Curiosity, freed from the Christian/Catholic religious dogma of the Middle Ages, brought on “The Enlightenment.”
    You might have heard of it, Ross.
    And it you haven’t, but you have the secular internet, you can look it up!

  5. joanr16  •  Sep 29, 2014 @8:54 am

    How old was Doubt-that in November 1978? Minus-1 spermyear or something? (i.e. not born yet?) Cause he sure as heck does not remember Jonestown.

    And the sad fact is, Jim Jones was about as clear-thinking as Ross D.

    btw, “children of the Reagan era” says it all. Raised in smoke and mirrors, and they’re in charge now. No wonder the world is so effed-up.

  6. buddhasteps  •  Sep 29, 2014 @11:16 am

    I am so glad I don’t know anybody who believes anything these people say. The temptation to mess with their minds would be SO strong… and so easy…..



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